621 CRW returns from three month Iraq deployment
By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks, 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 23, 2017
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Welcome home signs along with family and friends, filled the room to greet Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing as they returned here, after a three-month deployment to Iraq.
The 621st CRW Airmen operated out of Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, where they enabled and sustained air operations at the Coalition airfield.
The airfield, situated just 30 miles south of Mosul, was recaptured from Da’esh by Iraqi forces in July 2016, and has been refurbished by Coalition engineers to allow the re-commencement of air operations. It is now a strategic launching pad and frontline resupply depot.
During the 621st CRW time at the airfield, the air traffic control team coordinated with and controlled anywhere from 40 to 50 aircraft a day.
“This is unique because we did not have an established air traffic control tower to operate out of,” said Capt. Jacob Becker, 921st Contingency Response Squadron airfield operations officer. “We were not only coordinating with our sister services, but other countries as well to ensure the airspace was safe.”
Once the 621st CRW arrived, they worked hand-in-hand with Coalition forces for approximately 10 days to establish command and control centers, configuring the runway to support fixed-wing mobility aircraft and de-conflicting a congested and compressed airspace.
“The leadership along with the airfield operations team and the air traffic controllers developed an airfield de-confliction plan that identified certain parts of the airfield to be sectored off to ensure the different aircraft were separated and had their own airspace to operate away from artillery fire,” said Lt. Col. Blaine Baker, 821st CRG Contingency Response Element commander. “We also made sure we had a radio communication process where everyone from the aircraft, air traffic controllers and a number of other entities knew what aircraft were operating in what airspace to keep things separated and de-conflicted.”
Baker added that the CRG knew how vital the airfield was to the fight and wanted to get operations going as fast as possible.
“Qayyarah West Airfield is a key staging base for the Coalition in order to conduct operations against Da'esh in Mosul,” Baker said. “Being a part of opening an airfield to provide such critical support and giving our Coalition a tremendous advantage and the commanders more flexibility in conducting operations is a great feeling.”
While the Airmen of the 621st CRW were operating out of the airfield, they made sure to include their Iraqi counterparts to ensure they were getting the knowledge they needed.
“We worked very closely with the Iraqi forces to help them understand what our operations were and have them look at the processes we were using to communicate and to make sure as they generate their capabilities that they can do it safely and effectively,” Baker said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure there is a smooth transition to the Iraqis once they’re ready to take over the airfield.”