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AMC team vital to getting BIAP hub restarted

Editor's note: The following article was one of a series of articles developed by the 319th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office in commemoration of the one year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. By Staff Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol 319th Air Refuelin -- Tech. Sgt. Doug Starkweather wasn't sure what he was in for when he left here in April for his deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But he knew it was about freedom.

"The war, and the continued efforts in Iraq, are all about freedom," Sergeant Starkweather said. "We enjoy so much freedom in this country that we could never imagine what it would be like to live in fear. The people of Iraq are free now, some of them for the first time in their lives. I feel like I was a part of that, that my efforts made a difference, and that's a sense of accomplishment that I will get to carry with me for the rest of my life."

Sergeant Starkweather was in Iraq from April 17 to July 2. He deployed there to serve as the deputy chief of airfield management with the 447th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron at Baghdad International Airport.

When he arrived there, the airport was recently renamed from Saddam International Airport and he was there with two other people, Master Sgt. Tom Sherer from Scott AFB, Ill., and Tech. Sgt. Randall Simonson from Fairchild AFB, Wash.

"Sergeant Sherer, who is also my functional manager at AMC, picked the team and deployed as the airfield manager," Sergeant Starkweather said. "His specialty was management and networking. If there was something we needed, he found a way to get it for us."

Sergeant Simonson was the chief of airfield management operations. His specialty was computers.

"Everything we did to establish an airfield, Randall put it down on paper," Sergeant Starkweather said. "All our procedures, instructions, maps and other things, he organized not only for our use, but for those who would follow.

"My specialty was airfield operations," the technical sergeant said.

BIAP has two runways, according to Sergeant Starkweather. He said it has a 13,000-foot civilian runway and an 8,000-foot military runway.

"Coalition forces were kind enough to put both runways out of commission with some well-placed ordnance," Sergeant Starkweather said. "But you have to give those guys credit, they completely knocked out both runways without completely destroying them by placing their bombs in strategic locations."

Coalition forces repaired it by June 1. The challenge at this point was to get the runways back on the operational scale for military operations. Sergeant Starkweather said they were still able to land aircraft there even without the runways.

"We were actually landing aircraft on a taxiway at the edge of a parking ramp," he said. "My job was to make the temporary runway safe for operations and get the other two runways up and running. Although we all had titles, nobody was responsible for any one job. Everything we did, we did together and each person's expertise complemented the efforts of the team. If one person was challenged, we were all challenged and together we opened an airfield. It's an experience I'll never forget."