Lightning Inbound: Vermont ANG Continues F-35 Prep
By Tech. Sgt. Garth Dunkel, 158th Fighter Wing
/ Published August 29, 2019
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- In early April, flying operations at the Vermont Air National Guard paused briefly as the organization transitions missions from the F-16 Flying Falcon, to the F-35 Lightning II. While the Green Mountain Boys are ready to be the first Air National Guard organization to receive a fifth-generation aircraft, Airmen of the 158th Fighter Wing double down in their efforts as they enter this new and exciting chapter.
With the arrival of the F-35 just a few weeks away, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Darren Adams and Staff Sgt. Joseph Mailloux assigned to the 158th Operations Group’s airfield management section, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, have already revisited their regimen of preflight functions to reengage the Green Mountain Boys back into the standard, rigorous flying tempo.
Adams, Mailloux and their team are required to observe and attend to a vast, deliberate list of items before any aircraft fires its engines. The airfield management professionals must follow each aspect of the list to promote and verify the safe operation of aircraft. Some elements of the checklist require their attention to address the height of the grass, debris and snow removal, and sometimes the capture and release of certain species of wildlife.
A unique aspect that supports the overall management of the airfield is the on-going and efficient partnership between the Vermont Air National Guard and Burlington International Airport.
“We have an awesome relationship with these guys. I would say that we have one of the best (rapport with a civilian airport) in the country,” said Adams.
“It’s like having two different sets of eyes on the airfield at all times,” added Mailloux.
For well over a year, the Vermont Air National Guard has seen extensive improvements to the facilities as well as the airfield itself to accommodate the full scope of the F-35’s mission. In terms of airfield management, the improvements focused on safety and the ability to facilitate heavy-lift aircraft with wider taxiways and sturdier subbase material that prevent airfield damage over time.
As the various construction projects draw to a close, Adams is excited about how the improvements will support the F-35 mission.
“The old Fox Trot that we’re on right now used to have a 3% change in grade, from the top of the apron to where we’re at now. This was raised 8-feet an overall 16-foot difference from what it was, making it a one-point-four percent change in grade,” said Adams, as he commented on the safer grade in the airfield.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Henry Harder, Jr., emphasized the exciting challenges and opportunity that lay ahead. “‘Put the Vermonters ahead’. . . that’s what this nation is doing now putting the Vermonters forward; keeping the column tight in the future. Everybody will have hard days and long days, but the future is bright, and it’s going to be exciting times,” said Harder, quoting the Civil War army officer from Connecticut, Maj. Gen. John Cedric.