Supporting the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Security forces take down the bad guys, the fighter wings control the skies and the medical group patches-up the injured, but what does the 366th Force Support Squadron do downrange?

The weeklong Gunfighter Flag 16-1 exercise provided the opportunity to find out.
At home, the 366th FSS operates services used every day by airmen and their families. Facilities like the Base Gym and Dining Facility are run by FSS staff. These services are also offered downrange for deployed airmen at established air bases, forward operating bases and even bare base setups, like they assembled at Gunfighter Flag.

"A bare base is essentially what we have at our [Mobile Operating Air Base] here. We come out and there's basically nothing until we set up our tents," said Master Sgt. Ann Mitchell, 366th FSS sustainment flight superintendent. "Really, the most important thing is food and lodging. That's what we are geared toward first and then we can slowly creep into doing fitness and [recreational activities]."

Once a base has become more established, force support registers each person and assigns them tents. Airmen look after the lodging facilities and ensure a certain level of comfort and practicality is maintained. Meal preparation and areas for airmen to enjoy them are also set up.

After immediate concerns like food and shelter are established, services personnel take an approach catered more toward raising morale.

"We sponsor runs, get football and volleyball games going, anything to keep spirits high, really," said Senior Airman Marcus McGowan, 366th FSS food serviceman. "Our goal is to keep people happy."

Downrange environments can often become lonely, inhospitable and even depressing for some military members. Force support deploys to counteract those feelings of desolation.

"Lodging and food are basic necessities," Mitchell said. "In the long run, mental and physical health depend on things like fitness and recreational activities. Without us, it would be difficult."

However, combating some of those difficulties isn't always a walk in the park. During Gunfighter Flag, FSS personnel quickly realized the exercise would provide a tough learning experience.

The team assembled tents on the first day, but fought through rain and mud to do so. The following day, winds reached 50 knots making operations in the tent city even more difficult. A few FSS airmen described the weather as an antagonist, bent on making the unusual task of setting up a bare base even more difficult.

Mitchell said the airmen were forced to use their wits and teamwork to complete tasks made difficult by the unfortunate circumstances.

"There is always a way to overcome problems, that's why we do these exercises," Mitchell said. "It gives everyone the experience so when we have the next exercise, or we are in a real world scenario, we can be ready for whatever comes our way."

FSS airmen can be overlooked sometimes when multi-million dollar jets are flying overhead but their job is what makes the mission possible. Without food, shelter and airmen's strong physical and mental health, jets would be on the ground and many missions would fail.