LINCOLN, Neb. -- A proof of concept exercise took place Oct. 23 to identify any shortfalls and establish procedures for Offutt Air Force Base aircraft that will operate out of Lincoln Airport starting early next year while the base’s airfield undergoes a complete replacement.
The exercise involved the 55th Maintenance Group, along with 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln and Offutt first responders and various 55th Wing agencies to test the feasibility of operating from Lincoln Airport.
“This is going to be our long-term home once the Offutt airfield is shut down for construction, so before our entire fleet is operating out of here, we needed to practice some of the basic muscle movements that will be done on the grander scale when the time comes,” said Lt. Col. Harley R. Barmore, 155th ARW and 55th MXG deputy commander. “This is a new environment. It is a little tighter space than we are used to and it is a much different space than we are used to. My team needs to build familiarity with the space and we need to build some confidence within our team to do something different than what we do at home. Doing this will help it feel a little more natural when we have to do it for real.”
The exercise started as an idea conceived during a meeting among flight chiefs and superintendents. While trying to determine potential pitfalls the team could face when operations start, the idea of flying an aircraft to the airfield and conducting physical testing in these new spaces was suggested. From there, numerous agencies on and off base, came together to plan and ultimately execute the trail run.
“The point of this is to make sure we best utilize our time before we move down here and capture any potential limiting factors while we still have time to make changes,” said Master Sgt. Daniel G. Campanella, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “The fact so many people were eager to come out and respond the way that they did has been great and really showcases the level of support everybody involved is willing to give us to make our mission successful is awesome.”
The training not only allowed to test the hangars to ensure the aircraft would fit as expected and to identify limiting factors while there’s still time to fix them before commencing operations, but it also provided an opportunity to certify some personnel in things like towing aircraft into these hangars. This provides the 55th MXG with team members capable of conducting operations in the new area as soon as the space becomes operational.
“We can’t bring everybody down here, so we brought a small contingent down here to make sure we can accomplish everything”, said Campanella. “We also captured video to bring back as a training aide to teach those who couldn’t be here how the area will be used and give a familiarization of the facilities they will be working out of while here.”
Leadership devised a sequence of events designed to test things they felt were the biggest differences from the Offutt airfield as well as to test maneuvering in the smaller area to make sure it could be done.
“This was fantastic training,” said Barmore. “This is what training is all about. We identified some hurdles and crunch points we will have to overcome, but we were able to improvise. I saw a lot of creative thinking and by the book acting. We have a lot that we learned today and I saw some great teamwork. I feel very comfortable with our ability to operate safely and successfully when we move operations here.”