Military News

Friday, July 31, 2015

Securing Airspace, JBER supports PRSC tenant unit

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

7/31/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- All around Alaska, and out into the Pacific, little white domes dot the mountainside, coastlines, and islands-- the only tangible evidence of America's invisible armor.

The domes are operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by a small crew of mostly contracted civilian Airmen.

They drive up precarious, ice-covered slopes, braving 40 mile-per-hour winds in -40 degree temperatures with little to no medical support nearby as part of their daily work.

These are the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, (PSRC) formerly known as 611th Air Support Group, long-range radar sites. Their mission: track aircraft through Alaska's airspace and it's borders.

The PRSC manages 21 installations across the Pacific which, due to their locations, cannot be accessed by normal means, said Lt. Col Robert Bartlow, 611th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

The only way to get in or out is by plane or by barge.

In addition to constantly scouting the skies, some of the installations also serve as emergency airfields to which Air Force planes can divert should they need to make an unscheduled landing.

Others, like Wake Island, also serve as a halfway point, a gas station for planes to refill on their way to other Pacific locations.

"The missions at each one of those installations is a little bit different," Bartlow said. "Eareckson Air Station serves as an airfield, but also has a Cobra Dane radar system which is essentially a space-tracking asset that supports Air Force Space Command and the Missile Defense Agency."

Much like an air base wing would support its squadrons, the PRSC does the same with its three squadrons and one detachment, Bartlow said.

However, the difference is that the PRSC is a tenant unit, which means that they do not have their own base and infrastructure.

For that, the PRSC relies on the 673d Air Base Wing, and on the 3rd Wing for transportation to and from their sites.

It is this support from JBER units that enables the PRSC to ensure unauthorized aircraft do not come into American airspace.

The long-range radar sites are primarily run by contracted employees, with the maintenance being contracted as well. These contracts are accomplished through a partnership between the 766th Specialized Contracting Squadron and the 673d Contracting Squadron, with the 766th handling the larger contracts and the 673d providing construction and commodity contracts.

Because of it's unique facilities and mission, the PRSC offers opportunities JBER Airmen may not normally have, Bartlow said.

Airman 1st Class Joshua Quap, 673d Contracting Squadron, contracting specialist became one of those lucky few when he flew up to Indian Mountain to perform a final inspection for a boiler that was recently installed through his contracting squadron.

"It's definitely a different place, it really is. It was awe-inspiring, to say the least," said Quap. "It really shows Alaska for what it is."

"We [also] partner with the 673d Civil Engineer Group," Bartlow said. "We exchange personnel from time to time to expand their experience. We've received support with a couple of their engineering assistants who have been helping us out for several months to augment our folks and go out to these sites.

"It's great for us because we had more work than we could cover with the people we had," he said. "It's also great for them because it's an opportunity to get out and see something different, and to have an opportunity to provide direct oversight on some very unique projects.

"It's a win-win."

The 673d Force Support Squadron manages all PRSC manpower; all of their funding goes through the 673d Comptroller Squadron, and the 673d Logistics Readiness Group provides vehicle maintenance to PRSC locations.

"There needs to be Air Force equipment and vehicles on those island that needs to have an air force maintainer to take care of, and they readily offer those folks up and they spend months out there," Bartlow said.

"They do a lot of great work in making sure our equipment and vehicles are squared away."

The American military is made of several branches, each with unique missions and methods.

In the same way, JBER houses different units, each working separately for their own mission, but also together for a bigger one.

"We've got working relationships with all of them and are very pleased with the support they offer," said Air Force Captain Ben Shearer, PRSC executive officer. "Our mission would absolutely not be possible without their support, they enable us every single day to do our jobs."

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