Flightline closure relocates McChord operations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The McChord Field flightline at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Washington, closed for renovations March 1st and operations relocated to maintain worldwide capabilities. Leading up to the closure date, McChord Airmen were already prepared at March Air Reserve Base (ARB), California- ready to continue the mission.

To support reduced capability from JBLM, about 300 Airmen from McChord flew to March ARB Feb. 20th where operations will continue for the remainder of the flightline closure, tentatively scheduled to re-open in June.

“Local missions are still being flown out of Gray Army Airfield,” said Maj. Jill Gorab, the detachment commander of McChord operations at March ARB. “Down here [at March] we’re doing anywhere from two to four launches a day.”

In addition to the flights from March to meet worldwide operational demands, three shuttle flights a week fly out of Gray Army Airfield on Lewis Main to March ARB. They transport passengers, including air crews (consisting of pilots and loadmasters), and cargo containing supplies for operation support at March, including units from 62nd Operations Group, the 62nd Maintenance Group (MXG), and the 627th Air Base Group (ABG).

“Without the hand-selected aerial port and maintenance teams at March directly executing the mission, flying operations would cease and missions would be greatly impacted,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Lipsey, 62nd MXG superintendent. “The planning effort on the front end of McChord’s runway closure has paid dividends to the team’s success while leading critical operations away from home-station.  Kudos to all involved, especially the folks on the front lines making it all happen!”

Of the approximately 270 steady-state Airmen on the front lines at March, with some fluctuation based on missions and shuttle movement, about 200 are 62nd MXG personnel who maintain the aircraft on a daily basis.

Also operating out of March are 627th ABG Airmen helping to support base operations and reduce the burden of an influx of nearly 300 Airmen on units permanently stationed at March ARB.

“Our force support personnel [627th ABG] are working the gym so we’re able to extend the normal hours to better accommodate shift workers,” said Capt. Charlene Kabuanseya, 627th ABG officer in charge at March ARB.

In addition to the services that help Airmen maintain resiliency, ABG Airmen are also aiding in the safety and security of geographically separated operations at March. Airmen from the 627th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) are augmenting March’s 452nd SFS, helping to man the gate, secure the flightline, and, during unit training assembly, commonly referred to as UTA, weekends when the base population increases with Air Force Reservists, open more gates.

Security forces units from both March and McChord integrating is an example of what is happening on a broader scale at March, even before the flightline closure. This synergy has built seamless teams of Airmen (military and civilian) that made the transition a success.

Planning and teamwork was critical, without that planning piece none of the supplies and setup that we needed would’ve gotten here, said Kabuanseya. “We’ve been able to continue our mission and get the support and help that we need from March. It’s been a learning experience, but we’ve made it work. We always make it happen … that’s just how the Air Force operates.”

While the cultures of a reserve base and an active-duty joint base may vary, Airmen have worked together to achieve the mission.

“Being able to fit in like a plug, along with all the other airfield operations that go on here is due to the effort of both McChord and March Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. Will Palmer, chief enlisted manager for operations at March ARB. “That’s important.”