Swanton, Ohio --
Ensuring that airfields are safe, clear of debris and wildlife, as well as confirming pilots meet all requirements necessary to fly are two of the most important tasks assigned to U.S. Air Force airfield managers.
For Senior Airman Sienna Krise, an airfield manager, who enlisted into the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in 2015, it was this high-level of responsibility that drew her to the career field.
“It is my job to keep our pilots safe,” said Krise.
“Driving the airfield to ensure flight safety by monitoring wildlife and clearing the taxiways and runway of any foreign objects or debris is the first step to preventing mishaps,” explained Krise. “You never know when an emergency is going to happen, that could be caused by a small rock, a bird, or even a small animal on the runway that could result in serious damage to the jet or injury to our pilots.”
Krise and her team are responsible for conducting airfield inspections before each flying mission, clearing any debris they can and notifying the wing’s F-16 pilots of any concerns during the preflight briefings.
Located near protected wetland and nature preserve areas, the grassy areas within airfield the wing shares with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, attracts a variety of wildlife that needs to be monitored closely.
“It is critical that we check the airfield daily and before each mission to minimize the risks of a mishap,” said Krise.
“We’ve found anything from snakes, frogs, turtles, baby bunnies and even the occasional coyote wandering the taxiways and runway,” said Krise. “We want to keep our area wildlife safe as well and we’ll often try to relocate animals when we can or even take them to a local nature center where they can be cared for, if needed, then released back into the wild.
When larger animals, such as coyotes, foxes, or even large birds are a concern, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority partners with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, or APHIS, which provides consultation and management assistance to assess wildlife conflicts at the airfield to improve safety by reducing hazards and risks associated with wildlife while also protecting Northwest Ohio’s wildlife populations and valuable environmental resources.
“Airfield Management is essential to the safety of the 180th Fighter Wing’s flying missions,” said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Ball, Airfield Management Superintendent assigned to the 180FW. “We ensure a safe airfield environment for our pilots and any transient or civilian aircraft. Our goal is to provide the pilots with all the necessary information about the airfield and airspace for their mission planning. We work hand in hand with the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority on all projects that would affect the airfield and our flying mission.”
Off the airfield, Krise and her team are responsible for a multitude of other tasks that directly impact not only the 180FW’s flying mission, but also the safety of other commercial and general aviation aircraft flying in and around the airspaces with the wing’s fighter jets.
“Before each flight, we are responsible for filing flight plans, confirming each pilot has met necessary requirements to fly and collecting a signed flight authorization from each pilot,” Krise explained.
A flight plan includes pertinent information about each flight, to include a pilot’s route of flight and additional information such as radio call signs, proposed take-off and landing times, as well as the type and number of aircraft.
Once confirmed, Krise is responsible for ensuring the flight plans are filed with the Toledo Express Air Traffic Control Tower, which is accountable for monitoring the immediate, local, airspace. The Toledo tower then forwards the plans along to a larger air route traffic control center, such as Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, that monitors communications with aviators throughout a large air space. The Indianapolis Center covers an area of approximately 73,000 square miles of airspace.
During flying operations, Krise monitors radio traffic and is responsible for communicating any changes in flight plans, take-off and landing patterns, and relaying emergency information, should it arise.
“We have Quick Reaction Checklists ready for just about any emergency situation you can think of,” Krise said. “We are prepared to follow each checklist exactly to ensure that all critical information is communicated to key organizations on base, such as our fire and emergency services, the command post, civil engineering, security forces and the maintenance operations control center. These checklists guarantee that all organizations are on the same page and can respond accordingly.”
While the job of an airfield manager comes with a high level of responsibility, it also comes with a few special perks.
“One of my favorite parts of the job is working with transient aircraft and aircrew,” said Krise. “Our F-16s are the best, but I really enjoy working with and learning about other military aircraft that we just don’t get to see regularly. The aircrew members will teach us about their specific missions and sometimes give us a tour of their aircraft.”
The ability to travel is another perk that Krise has enjoyed so far and continues to look forward to throughout her career, explaining that it is fun and exciting to visit new places around the country, but it’s also the challenge of learning to navigate a new airfield and the unique characteristics of each.
“So far, I’ve been to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, for a Red Flag exercise, and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in northern Michigan,” Krise said. “At Nellis, everything was so fast-paced and there were so many different aircraft and so much flying happening. In Alpena, it was a much slower pace, and even the tower wasn’t staffed all of the time, so it was interesting sometimes to navigate the airfield when there wasn’t someone in the tower directing you where and when to go onto an active runway.”
While military service wasn’t initially in the plans for Krise following high school, it was a combination of solid core values and strong work ethic that her mother instilled in her while growing up, along with a recommendation from her sister who enlisted with the 180FW in 2009.
“My biggest regret is that I didn’t join sooner,” said Krise. “I wish I would have enlisted right out of high school rather than waiting until I was 20.”
“If I have only one piece of advice to offer other young girls”, Krise continued. “It would be to join as soon as possible. I highly recommend it!”
Now, four years into her enlistment and planning to make a career out of military service, Krise is completing her first round of professional military education and has her eye on promotion into the non-commissioned officer ranks.
“I think it is extremely important to really take charge of your career,” said Krise. “Make sure you are up to date on everything and promote on time, it's no one else's job but your own.”