Ready to Receive: RAF Fairford goes to 'hot' for deployers

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best
  • 501st Combat Support Wing
The sky above RAF Fairford is usually quiet, but for the last two years during the month of June, the roar of heavy bomber aircraft can be heard as they land and take off from its flightline. This exercise gives RAF Fairford personnel the opportunity to show the base transitions from what's called a 'warm' base to 'hot' base.

"Preparation can take as little as 48 hours, but in this case we've been planning for this exercise for months." said Lt. Col. Marc Galler, deputy commander, 422nd Air Base Group

More than 330 Airmen within the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command are supporting U.S. European Command exercises, BALTOPS 15 and Saber Strike 15, and will be conducting flights around the region, using RAF Fairford as their deployed location.

On a normal day at RAF Fairford the base has approximately 120 personnel. In preparation for exercises and operations, the 501st Combat Support Wing utilizes personnel from RAF Alconbury, RAF Croughton and the 100th Air Refueling Wing which increases personnel on RAF Fairford to approximately 150.

RAF Fairford's strategic location, unique capabilities and support facilities that the 120 personnel maintain, continue to prove that RAF Fairford is a key location for large-scale exercises and readiness operations and an ideal site for bomber operations.  Its 10,000-foot runway is able to receive aircraft within 48 hours of notification, and provides an unrestricted load-bearing surface and 55 parking spots.  Additionally, the installation has the capacity to store 9.3 million gallons of jet fuel, a large vehicle fleet and support facilities for more than, 1000 personnel.

"We surge in manpower and duty hours through the arrival of the main body of deploying personnel, cargo and their operating aircraft." said Galler.

Low-density, high-demand career fields, such as logistics, communications, air traffic control, contracting and services requires augmentation when the base transitions to 'hot' status.

RAF Fairford's normal hours of operation while the base in warm status is 12 hours a day 5 days a week. Once the base goes into goes into "hot" status it will go 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Contracts are reactivated or created to assist the inbound unit with their requirements when the base enters 'hot' status.

"Multiple contracts were created or reactivated for this exercise, said Senior Master Sgt. Marcus Webb, 501st CSW, chief of contracting.  "The contracts included upgrading the WIFI services for the dorm areas, cellular phone capabilities, additional custodial services, food services and vehicle rentals are."

Facilities which are typically vacant must be placed into full operational status. RAF Fairford's team of civil engineers and maintenance personnel systematically work through all building water systems, heating systems, fire systems, doors and windows checking for functionality, safety and operability, said Andrew Davies, base civil engineer.

Davies said his teams also perform checks in the water system for concerns.
"When we have to enter into 'hot' status for exercises or contingences the level of preparation goes up exponentially to include significant materials procurement for things like c-wire, security lighting, rental of portable facilities for sleeping, washing, office and toilet portaloo accommodations." said Davies.

To help the deployed Airmen keep in contact with their loved ones, the community center, 420th ABS said Our CAC has WIFI, a social/recreational, a TV lounge, and can assist with trips and tours, said Gary

The CAC is open during normal duty hours and can expand hours and increase in staff to accommodate increases in base personnel. The CAC staff provides meals for advanced liaison team prior to and after the main body have departed.

The fitness center on base is usually only open from 7a.m. to 2:30p.m Monday through Friday, on the buddy system, but once again when the base goes into 'hot' status, it is open 24/7. The facility gets a lot of usage from the deployed personnel. The inbound unit has the option to bring staff to work the facility.

The amount of fuel changes significantly from 'warm' to 'hot' status when aircraft landing and departures increase.

"During 'hot' status we issue triple the amount of fuel in one week than we do in one average month in warm status," said Lisa Mackenzie, the chief of logistics readiness at RAF Fairford. 

"For example for the entire month of April while in 'warm' status we issued 8,872 gallons of JP8 and during the first week this June while in 'hot' status we have issued 26,335 gallons." The ratio is about the same when it comes to fuel for the government owned vehicles.

The fuels operation is managed 100%, contracted personnel Monday through Friday in 'warm' status, but once the base goes into 'hot' status, the fuels operations is augmented with deployed fuels personnel, usually 100% military most of the time. The deployed personnel take over fuels operations throghout the entire exercise.

The contractors will still be utilized, but in other areas of the base.

"Our contractors will service initial cargo, passenger aircraft arrivals and then will provide onsite familiarization training to the deployed fuels personnel when they arrive," said Mackenzie "Then they step back into an advisory or assistance type of role, for the remainder of the exercise".

It takes an extremely dedicated team of professionals to keep RAF Fairford operational during the 'warm' status, and even more to wake up the base and move to a 'hot' status.

"It's fantastic to have AFGSC bombers back at RAF Fairford again this year," said Galler. "The deployment itself validates that the 501st CSW's planning, maintenance and mission support personnel are excellent at what they do."

"Having the deployers here is a real boost to the morale for the 420th ABS team." said Galler.