MANDA BAY, Kenya, June 3 - 7, 2021 -- When the Soldiers of the 2-111th Airfield Operations Battalion (AOB) found out they were deploying to Manda Bay Airstrip, Kenya, a recently reactivated camp, they knew there would be a lot of work to be done.
Since arriving, the Soldiers of the 2-111th AOB, in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), have worked diligently to ensure the aircraft that fly in and out of Manda Bay Airstrip do so in a safe and efficient airfield.
“There were a few safety issues we noticed when we got here,” said U.S. Army Spc. Elijah Farmer, an air traffic controller with the 2-111 AOB. “It’s part of our job [as the AOB] to provide coordination within all moving parts of the airfield.”
The AOB’s air traffic controllers (ATC) and airfield ground management work alongside Kenyan ATCs to establish best airfield practices, giving the soldiers the opportunity to build lasting relations with their coalition counterparts.
“Since this is Kenyan airspace, we now have their ATC’s, [Jack and Priscilla], in the tower with us,” said U.S. Army Spc. Brandon Herringdine, an air traffic controller shift lead with the 2-111 AOB. “This allows for better communication and coordination with the Kenyan air traffic that lands here.”
The AOB, responsible for the mobile tower and airfield ground control, recently received an Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR), the first in the region, to be their extra set of eyes in the sky. The ASR system is a high performance radar system designed to provide ATCs with a reliable and clear picture of air traffic in its area of coverage.
“During bad or inclement weather it was difficult on the tower and pilots to rely on those visuals alone,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Jordan Dominguez, an air traffic controller with the 2-111 AOB. “With the ASR system we have even more positive control to bring the pilots down safely.”
The ASR and the Precision Approach Radar (PAR) systems used at the airstrip require routine checks by engineers with the 2-111 AOB who specialize on these systems to make sure they are working properly in down-range conditions. It’s a joint effort from all Soldiers and Airmen at the airstrip, from management to mechanics to engineers, to keep the airfield in a safe and orderly condition.
One of the procedures the AOB implemented was the U.S. Air Force’s Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program, which preserves aircraft operations through the reduction of wildlife hazards.
“With birds specifically, if a bird strike occurs we capture the remains of the bird that was hit and send them to the Smithsonian,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Miner, the safety manager with the 2-111 AOB. “The Smithsonian determines the species flight pattern, which helps us coordinate the best times for aircraft to take off and land here without incident.”
After implementing the BASH program, the AOB soldiers have continued to work with other personnel at the airstrip to identify necessary operations and procedures. U.S. Army Master Sgt. John Hoff, non-commissioned officer in-charge (NCOIC) of the 2-111 AOB at Manda Bay, said while providing many different services to ensure a safe airfield, they have grown as individuals and as a unit.
Their work at the camp continues to provide the necessary man-power needed to ensure procedures are conducted, allowing for a safe and efficient airfield.
“I believe we have done a great job in identifying the issues that were here and correcting them,” said Hoff, NCOIC of the 2-111 AOB at Manda Bay. “I’m proud of our Soldiers and Airmen that have gone above and beyond to make this a safe, operational, and effective airfield.”