75th OSS keeps Hill AFB flying during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Cynthia Griggs
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- While the “new normal” for some of the base’s workforce includes social distancing and teleworking due to COVID-19, the 75th Operations Support Squadron is making it all happen while keeping Hill Air Force Base flying.

The squadron’s mission: “Make every sortie a success!"

“While we’ve implemented some rather unique and stringent procedures to safely do that in lieu of COVID-19, our mission hasn’t changed and neither have our Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Christine Littlejohn, 75th OSS commander. “Any time, any place, any challenge – this team will get it done.”

The 75th OSS directs and coordinates flying activities at Hill through air traffic control, airfield management, air traffic control and landing systems, weather, host aviation resource management, and transient alert.

Littlejohn said the squadron has been compliant with the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 directives, implementing sanitation procedures in their facilities and vehicles weeks ago and making mask-wearing mandatory a couple weeks ago.

She said they’ve been grateful to have many family, friends and Airmen step up with phenomenal sewing skills to provide face coverings for the team.

Mandatory masks are a must in the tight spaces such as the cab of the air traffic control tower. Controllers and others in the tower ensure aircraft taking off and arriving maintain proper and safe distance, and do not have the option to social distance or telework.

“This has added a new duty for the controllers: disinfection,” said Capt. Forest Kerstetter, Airfield Operations Flight commander.

Littlejohn also said the controllers are the only non-medical team on base who are required to wear a surgical mask rather than homemade cloth ones other members are allowed to wear.

The squadron has been flexible where it can by, shifting hours and teleworking to implement social distancing for some members of the squadron.

For example, the weather shop has been able to rotate one shift on base working a longer shift while the others work remotely and on call.

“We established alternating airfield hours to support our flying-partners’ mission requirements while also ensuring sustained Hill airfield capabilities for the long-term,” said Littlejohn.

“We separated our personnel and established hardened-crews across our sections; this ensures mission coverage if we need to give one crew the opportunity to take on and beat COVID-19 at home,” she added.

The pandemic has also changed how some tasks normally fulfilled. Air traffic control and landing systems recently had to replace and install a localizer antenna at the end of the runway, a job usually done by a regional maintenance center from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

In addition, the squadron seems to be doing well with the changes.

“We’re a bunch of introverts,” joked Master Sgt. Nathan Wesley, who works in weather. “So, this is our natural habitat.”

During these unpredictable circumstances, leadership has been keeping morale up and updating the squadron constantly, helping them achieve the mission while ensuring their people are safe.

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Williams said leadership formed a chat room that keeps everyone connected so people do not have to worry about missing assignments and deadlines.

“COVID-19 is a unique adversary, but we have the right measures in place to protect our mission and our people,” said Littlejohn. “It’s definitely a challenge, but this squadron is used to taking on challenges, finding solutions, and making it happen."