Diego Garcia is one of the largest of 60 small islands making up the Chagoa Archipelago. Airmen from U.S. Air Force Det. 1, 36th Mission Support Group, have the important mission of maintaining a forward operating location there, approximately 3,000 miles west of Guam (Courtesy photo).
Diego Garcia is one of the largest of 60 small islands making up the Chagoa Archipelago. Airmen from U.S. Air Force Det. 1, 36th Mission Support Group, have the important mission of maintaining a forward operating location there, approximately 3,000 miles west of Guam (Courtesy photo).

Andersen Airmen project airpower from Diego Garcia

by Senior Airman Gerald R. Willis
U.S. Air Force

DIEGO GARCIA, Indian Ocean -- The diverse mission of the 36th Wing can be boiled down to a single concept: Project airpower across the Indo-Pacific region.

Deployed to an atoll 21 times smaller than Guam, less than 30 Airmen of Detachment 1 have the important mission of maintaining a forward operating location (FOL) 3,000 miles west of Guam on Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory.

“Being a geographically separated unit, isolated and far away from all other Pacific Air Force units, makes operating is challenging,” said Senior Master Sgt. McAdams, Det. 1 superintendent. “Fortunately, we have some of the best Airmen and highly skilled contractors manning our shops.”

The detachment comprises a command cell and four flights capable of completing a wide array of tasks that support the overall 36th Wing mission of projecting airpower.

“Being the only allied location capable of launching air and sea operations in the middle of the Indian Ocean brings with it a lot of responsibility,” McAdams said. “Everyone here wears multiple hats to make sure the mission runs smoothly with a limited number of people. Air Force personnel provides oversight and management of vital systems on island.”

During exercises and operations, Det. 1 Airmen and contractors supply transient aircraft and personnel with everything they need. The Mission Support Flight provides contract oversight, maintenance of the petroleum, oil and lube systems, aerospace group equipment (AGE) and vehicle fleet management. The Logistics Flight tracks and ensures war reserve material readiness, making certain to meet warfighting needs. The Communications Flight connects people on-island and across the world, and serves as the Air Force network manager on Diego Garcia. The Munitions Flight is tasked with inspection and maintenance of the Air Force WRM munitions stockpiles, as well as accomplishing all other munitions squadron technical functions.

“Most of our equipment is war reserve and in storage when we are not supporting Pacific, Central or Global Strike Command operations,” McAdams said. “But when it is needed, the equipment is fully operational and ready for deployment. Being pre-positioned means we don’t have to start from square one if Diego is ever needed to support wartime efforts in this fast-paced region.”

In the past, Diego Garcia served as a staging area for personnel, aircraft and equipment during Central Command’s Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Looking to the future, the men and women who are permanently stationed on Diego Garcia spend a year-long remote tour ensuring the base is ready when called upon.

“We have a long and proud history of projecting air power from a joint and combined region in the Indian Ocean,” McAdams said. “Living up to and keeping that heritage alive makes the challenge of being isolated a little bit easier. When friends and family ask what we did while stationed in Diego, we can proudly say we promoted peace and stability in a region with diverse political powers.”

Being 10 hours ahead of the east coast of the U.S. and having slow internet connection makes contact with family and friends very challenging. While stationed on Diego Garcia, Airmen form a tight-knit community and support each other, exemplifying the Wingman concept.

“Everybody knows everybody,” McAdams said. “We eat, go to MWR morale events and work together every day and when the time comes, we are ready to fight together.”

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