Forward, Ready, Now: RAF Fairford welcomes POTUS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
With the distinctive sound of rubber meeting cement at high velocity, Air Force One touched down at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, Sept. 3.

Aboard the highly-customized Boeing 747-200B, President Barack Obama prepared to disembark and travel to Wales to attend the 2014 NATO Summit - the largest gathering of international leaders ever to take place in Britain.

However, before the conference, U.S. Air Force Airmen and Department of Defense civilians partnered with U.K. Ministry of Defence and local national employees at Fairford to ensure the president's arrival was flawlessly executed.

"Fairford is what is called a 'warm base,' meaning it doesn't support regular flying operations," said Clyde Byrd, 420th Air Base Squadron chief of operations support flight. "When we received this request we had to first identify any potential shortfalls that could come from supporting a mission of this magnitude."

With a dedicated staff of a little more than 100 people, Byrd and his team worked with other units from the 501st Combat Support Wing, 3rd Air Force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa to fill in any support gaps as quickly as possible. White House staffers provided ample lead time, allowing team Fairford to successfully accommodate Air Force One.

"During normal operations we are able to spin up support within 48 hours," said Lisa Mackenzie, 420th ABS logistics readiness chief. "For a request like this, with so many diverse entities, we need the extra time to handle any changes that occur. The whole operation forces us to be flexible."

With flexibility existing as a cornerstone to airpower, Mackenzie said coordinating the aerospace ground equipment, fuels, transient alert and cargo operations of this visit was a welcome challenge to the team at Fairford.

"It's been a busy season," she said. "I'm not aware of any other Air Force logistics team, that comprises entirely civilians, who can accomplish what we did this summer. With zero safety and security incidents, the president's arrival really serves as the perfect capstone."

Despite the eagerness of team Fairford to accomplish this tasking, Byrd said this visit differed from other presidential visits he supported at RAF Mildenhall, between 1993 and 2000.

"The biggest difference is Fairford doesn't have the resources on hand to support operations like this," Byrd said. "At a traditional base, when missions surge, the manning and equipment are already in place to handle the increase. Here, we have to be innovative."

While Byrd said the availability and support personnel during this visit were instrumental in successfully accommodating the president, the drive for 100 percent mission success is what motivated team Fairford to accomplish this task.

"It's what we do," Byrd said. "At Fairford, it's all about getting the job done. The entire team here and our supporting personnel worked extremely hard to ensure this went off without a hitch."