MANAS, Kyrgyzstan-- Fairchild aircrews who played a pivotal role creating the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan are preparing for July 2014 when the base will shutdown.
For twelve years, the airbase at Manas has been a home overseas for thousands of U.S. troops. Fairchild crews helped keep the base running in the air and on the ground.
A large contribution by Fairchild is through mid-air refueling missions. Additionally, mechanics from the 92nd logistics and readiness squadron oversee every nut, bolt and tool to keep the aircraft flight ready. The squadron will keep working until the last jet takes-off.
Senior Airman Carvarciea Byrd and Tech Sergeant Jeremy Bates are both members of the squadron. They agree their work is essential to operations in Kyrgyzstan.
“We have an actual purpose when we’re out here. Everyone knows what we’re doing,” Sgt. Bates said. “We’re out here just to save lives.”
Byrd said its nice knowing the squadron is there for protection.
From home, Fairchild Air Force crews can see their work paying off.
“Everything I do. I see those planes take off, and fly down South,” said Master Sergeant Kevin Perusich at Fairchild. “They do the mission and get it done.”
Fueling those aircraft is no small task. The logistics and readiness squadron keeps them running.
Tech Sergeant Nicholas Parrott said they work daily to issue fuel to the aircraft.
“We issue to the KC-135’s for the air-to-air refueling. That’s a big job.” Parrott said. “We make sure the fuel is clean and ready to go, so there aren't any mission delays.”
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On the other side of the base, the civil engineer squadron is in charge of infrastructure. They helped create the transit center from the ground up and they will be the ones to help take it down.
Senior Airman Austin Brown said they are focusing on different tasks every day.
This is part of the drawdown of troops following an overwhelming vote by the Kyrgyz government to end its military partnership with the U.S.
Colonel John Vaughn said U.S. troops are cooperating.
“We do respect them as our partners here over the last 12 years, and their aid to us in the War on Terror. So we will honor their wishes and depart,” Vaughn said.
American officials agreed the shutdown will have a grave and lasting impact, especially on the 700 poverty-stricken people who work at the base.
The air force is active in various humanitarian projects that provide aid to the local people in Kyrgyzstan.
“It's tough to leave, because we've made good friends out here,” said Chief Master Sergeant Greg Warren. “But the mission will continue on. These tankers can touch anybody and get folks anywhere in the world.”
It is not clear where the air operations in Manas will be transferred when the base is shutdown. The cargo and transport crews could head to Romania, but air support cannot go to the same location according to officials. Regardless of location, when the base is shutdown in July, the mission will continue.