HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico –
A low growl fills the air and drifts across the stony ground, like a momma bear defending her cub at the mouth of her cave. But, these growls are the low rumble of a long row of heavy trucks on the loading ramp at Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources Base, waiting to be loaded with important supplies.
With a quick gesture from the gloved hand of a cloth, face-covered Airmen on the ramp, the air brakes squeal and hiss as the growls grow to a roar. A hint of diesel drifts on the breeze as the flatbed trucks march forward -- another truck is loaded, and more construction and maintenance supplies roll out to help the U.S. Air Force’s cubs – the Airmen at Basic Military Training in San Antonio.
“I’m extremely proud of our Travel Management Office and ground transportation teams for their efforts this week,” said Capt. Elizabeth Scarberry, a 635th Materiel Maintenance Support Squadron operations officer. “They stepped up to support their fellow Airmen and have embodied our motto, ‘Ready When Called!’”
To ensure Basic Military Training is able to “fight through” the current COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing has been instituted across the force. Even though the trainee numbers are half of the normal student load, the square footage required to maintain physical distancing is the same as a full complement of trainees would occupy.
With all Airman training infrastructure being utilized with lodging and gyms designated for COVID-19 response operations, no continuity of operations capability exists at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. This gap threatened the training pipeline and a contingency housing capability was required to sustain the pipeline and serves as swing space.
On April 8, 2020, Headquarters Air Force decided this was a mission that needed to be done and could not wait until after the COVID-19 stop movement was lifted, so they tasked the 635th Materiel Maintenance Group.
The 635th MMG is the Air Force’s only organic BEAR unit and is responsible for providing flexible and responsive resources and expertise to support the nation’s priorities. Within 48 hours, 635th Airmen began supporting the construction of a 1,200-person camp with laundry services, showers, bathrooms, billets and kitchens at JBSA-Lackland to support BMT operations. This camp is being built within the next 10 days.
“BEAR Base did an outstanding job when tasked to plan and execute this movement at a moment’s notice,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, the 635th MMG operations center section chief.
To support this camp construction, the 635th MMG deployed more than 30 personnel from two teams on April 9, 2020, who are experts in base construction and maintenance, while more than 30 flatbed trucks were loaded down with critical supplies before hitting the road.
In all, the 635th MMG will ship more than 1.2 million pounds of equipment and cargo, worth more than $10.8 million.
“We are proud to share our base with world-class mission partners like Col. Marconi (635th Materiel Maintenance Group commander) and his team of professionals at BEAR Base,” said Col. Joseph Campo, 49th Wing and Holloman Air Force Base commander. “Our team at Holloman provides for our nation’s defense in a variety of capacities. From training and equipping the Air Force with operationally-ready aircrew and deploying more than 500 personnel a year, to testing the next generation of aircraft systems and building entire facilities from scratch all over the world, we play a critical role in today’s readiness and the readiness of our military in the future.”