By Jim Hughes, Command Information OfficerDecember 16, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- New, first and one-of-a-kind are words spoken a lot around Fort Rucker's 2-58th Airfield Operations Battalion.
In relative terms, it's a new unit, standing up here in 2007. Most of its Soldiers are new to the unit - most only assigned for a few months.
It's the Army Reserve's first and only AOB unit. And it's getting ready for its first deployment by going through new training on airfield management, said Maj. Brian Matthews, airfield manager for the 2-58th AOB.
"We provide airfield management capabilities and air traffic services for the Army. The challenge we have is from the airfield management perspective - the Army does not have formalized training for it," Matthews said.
While Army air traffic controllers go through formalized training and work their way up the enlisted career ladders, and even into the warrant officer levels, Soldiers don't "grow up" airfield managers, Matthews said.
"There isn't anything like that for airfield management," he said. "So what we did was go out and do our best to teach ourselves by reading manuals, documents and regulations from the Air Force and the civilian sector."
Then the unit took it a step further by contracting through Saber Aviation to send airfield management experts in for some classroom and hands-on training Nov. 29-Dec. 10, Matthews said.
"It's been a pretty intense two weeks," Matthews said. "We're learning the things we're going to need to know to manage airfields in the theater, and also where we can learn more. We're learning how to go to an airfield and evaluate the restrictions, capabilities and functionalities of it - what it can support and what it can't."
The training included evaluating adjacent Knox Army Airfield for a given scenario, said CW3 Steven Burr, a member of the 2-58th's sister active duty unit, the 1-58th AOB.
The scenario featured a unit arriving to the airfield with an advance party and then follow-up forces coming in behind it, he said.
"We went to the airfield, took a look at it, took measurements and worked to figure out what needed to be done to accommodate those forces," he said. "This training is very beneficial. I'm an Aviator coming in to be the safety officer for the AOB. I know Aviation safety, but what is that role for an AOB' No one really knew, so I'm here to figure that out."
When the 2-58th deploys, it is scheduled to take over airfield management and ATS from the 1-58th, and that gives this training double the value, Burr, one of two 1-58th Soldiers attending the training, added.
"It's good for us to work with them," he said. "We'll get to know them, get some points of contact, bounce things off each other and let them know what's working for us."
While both units are located at the home of Army Aviation, when they leave for their deployments, they'll be working airfields that will need to support the joint force, said CW3 Richard Wing, 2-58th AOB safety officer.
"If we're going to go to an airfield and make it qualified for C-17s or C-130s to land and operate on, there are a lot of things we need to know," he said. "Those aircraft will be bringing in our supplies and if we don't have an airfield that meets the requirements for Air Force aircraft, they won't be coming there."
The recent training is just one part of what Matthews called the 2-58th AOB's "Road to War" plan to ensure the unit is fully ready and capable of performing its mission when called on to deploy.
"It's a busy place-the Road to War is pretty intense," Matthews said. "We'll be having one to two weeks of training every month."
Above and beyond the aggressive training schedule, getting Soldiers up to speed on all their job certifications is a challenge, too, said Master Sgt. James Strickland, ATC operations chief for the unit.
But the Soldiers are up to the challenges of the certifications and training that reach into all aspects of the units' operations, he added.
"The Soldiers are attuned to it - they don't want to come here and sit around," Strickland said. "They're getting to work and getting to the training."
Matthews is confident the Road to War, the dedication of the Soldiers of the 2-58th AOB and higher headquarters support will have the unit where it needs to be come deployment time.
"We have a great command climate, everything is clicking and the chemistry is there - the Soldiers love the direction we're going," he said. "Soldiers want to stay in this unit. All these people have civilian jobs, civilian lives, and they're all putting them on hold to do this training so we can be ready - that proves our commitment.
"And we're getting great support from the Reserve, from the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group and Air Traffic Services Command. Everything is falling into place and we're going to be ready to rock-and-roll."