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Teamwork makes Bahamas trip successful

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
An Air Forces Northern mission to set up and test a radar in the Lower Bahamas air corridor for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) was deemed a success recently and all detachment members redeployed to their home stations according to AFNORTH logistics directorate officials.

Maj. Christopher Lawrence, the initial 1st Air Expeditionary Task Force commander, said the effort, which began with planning meetings in June, was challenging primarily because of bare-base conditions and limited resources. The project was initiated by U.S. Northern Command on behalf of the RBDF.

"The location was the farthest island in the chain - Great Inagua, so the first thing we had to do was learn the terrain," Lawrence said. "Since it was truly a bare base environment, we had to bring all our own resources, so airlift was a critical piece."

Assisting the persons deployed from AFNORTH were the 172nd Airlift Wing from Mississippi and the 165th Airlift Wing from Georgia. Additionally, there were assets from the 823rd Red Horse Squadron and Air Combat Command.

"Additional logistics support in Key West, Fla., proved vital in keeping aircraft moving," Lawrence said. "And the support from the RBDF, along with airfield management, was exceptional."

Throughout the deployment, team members were given safety briefings daily before work began -- which primarily focused on hydration and sunscreen. Force protection issues were also briefed but no significant issues were identified.

There were, however, some forces they could not seem to conquer - namely heat and mosquitoes.

Set up and site improvements had to terminate at dusk because of severe mosquito issues," Lawrence said. "The heat and humidity would get worse as the day wore on and we could not find a successful repellant solution to the mosquito problem. Also, at one point there was a black widow spider under a storage case in the inspection area which led to much more scrutiny of the equipment."

After a series of quality assurance checks and occasional troubleshooting, the radar went online. The radar, a TPS-78 --the only in the DoD's inventory -- transmitted its first data feed Nov. 6 to the Air Marine Operations Center in Riverside, Calif.

"As of Nov. 8, all quality checks exceeded expectations and the radar calibration completed. Once up and running, it continued to perform the mission in an outstanding manner," Lawrence said.

John Troupe, a logistics specialist, oversaw the equipment mobility activities from Key West.

"Whenever you take on a project like this, there are inherently bureaucratic issues to cope with but with sheer determination and a focus on relationship building, we made it happen," Troupe said. Additionally, this was a great example of a Total Force effort with Active Duty, ANG and Civilian Airman working closely with Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard personnel and other Federal Agencies all working together to achieve the desired outcome.

And with that focus on relationship building, Lawrence focused on what the group could do in terms of community projects.

"During the deployment, I created a plan to offer support to the local community for any habitat-type project that my team would like to volunteer for on their off-duty time while in Inagua. I placed heavy emphasis on supporting the community and forming good ties with the people of Great Inagua."

Col. Al Wimmer, AFNORTH Operations Director, visited the project as its testing period was winding down. He said he was very impressed with the level of teamwork the effort required and credited it to the mission's success.

"This is another example of the total force in action and how our command quietly but reliably gets the mission done," Wimmer said. "This radar equipment is operated and maintained by an Air National Guard unit in Georgia. Their team was augmented by regular Air Force personnel, and led by officers from our Air Force Forces staff. Our A4 team assembled an air bridge operation to move the team and equipment, bringing tremendously-needed training to airlift units, Aerial Port units, and our own logistics management enterprise. We were able to provide support to Joint Task Force North and many other organizations enabling multiple operations -- just one more reason to be proud of what we do here.