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100th CS Airmen support RIAT
(Right) Airman First Class Jeremy Mills and Staff Sgt. Gerald Lenahan, 100th Communications Squadron airfield systems, change out radio frequency equipment at RAF Fairford to support hte Royal International Air Tattoo. The Airmen are assigned to RAF Mildenhall and travel to RAF Fairford to provide maintenance and on call response for the airfield systems equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brian Maguire)
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100th CS Airmen support RIAT

Posted 7/16/2012   Updated 7/16/2012 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Brian Maguire
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2012 - RAF FAIRFORD, United Kingdom  -- A team of Airmen from the 100th Communications Squadron at RAF Mildenhall were on temporary duty here to provide support and maintenance necessary to the functioning of the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Four Airmen from the Airfield Systems shop arrived here July 2 to function check equipment and ensure the air traffic control radios, weather equipment and airfield navigational aids were fully functional before the arrival of aircraft at the world's largest military airshow.

"We're responsible for maintaining radios, navigational aids, and weather equipment - the OSS [operations support squadron] and operators are our main customers," said Staff Sgt. Gerald Lenahan, 100th CS airfield systems craftsman. "Customer service is a big part of our job."

Arriving before any aircraft, the Airmen work to ensure the navigational aids are functional, and that all the frequencies approved by the Civil Aviation Administration for use by RIAT are installed and operational, said Zelda Montoya, 420th Air Base Squadron air traffic manager.

"They maintain all the radio equipment in the tower, the frequencies, stuff of that sort," said Montoya. "When they're down here, I'm one on one with them constantly, to make sure that our nav[igational] aids are up - glide slope, localizer, all the frequencies and all the landlines."

Once the equipment is set up and operating properly for RIAT controllers, the Airmen monitor the equipment and are on standby 24 hours a day during the airshow in case anything happens to the equipment.

"We're still maintaining the equipment to the same standards that we do at Mildenhall," said Airman First Class Jeremy Mills, 100th CS airfield systems journeyman. "Whether it is an airshow or real-world events, they [operators] have to have their radio, ILS [instrument landing system], weather and everything."

Most of the equipment the Airmen maintain are spread out around the flightline and feed information back to the control tower. Accurate readings and signals from each piece of equipment is important to running the airshow daily.

"Even on a clear day the weather equipment is important, so it is pretty high on the list for us to maintain," said Lenahan. "For example, determining the wind heading correctly can make the difference whether certain aircraft can perform or not."

RIAT is not the only time the Airfield Systems airmen travel to RAF Fairford. They routinely come to conduct preventive maintenance on the equipment, and ensure the base can meet its 48-hour window of bedding down forces. While 2012 is not their first RIAT, the transformation of RAF Fairford represents a stark contrast to their other visits.

"At first I didn't recognize the base - it is completely transformed from what we're used to seeing," said Mills. "It's a shock to the system to suddenly see about 20,000 people walking down the taxiways."

Working his third RIAT for airfield systems, two while assigned to the 100th CS and one as one of the last Airmen assigned to the 420th Air Base Group, the former group responsible for RAF Fairford, Lenahan said that each visit to RAF Fairford is a great one.

"Working with everyone at RAF Fairford is a wonderful experience, because every person here is so willing to help," said Lenahan. "The small, tightly knit nature of the squadron here means that everyone pitches into help and makes working with the 420th Air Base Squadron a real treat."

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