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Contingency response Airmen assist in Wake Island storm recovery

Wake Island, pictured as viewed from the north, was completely evacuated July 15, 2015, in preparation for Typhoon Halola closing in on the small atoll. A team with the 36th Contingency Response Group deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to the atoll July 20, 2015, to assist permanently assigned airfield staff in storm recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Wake Island, pictured as viewed from the north, was completely evacuated July 15, 2015, in preparation for Typhoon Halola closing in on the small atoll. A team with the 36th Contingency Response Group deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to the atoll July 20, 2015, to assist permanently assigned airfield staff in storm recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

An contractor assigned to Wake Island Airfield opens the passenger terminal building July 20, 2015, after a typhoon hit the small atoll and forced the entire staff to evacuate the island a few days earlier. A team with the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

An contractor assigned to Wake Island Airfield opens the passenger terminal building July 20, 2015, after a typhoon hit the small atoll and forced the entire staff to evacuate the island a few days earlier. A team with the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Master Sgt. Iain Morrison, 36th Contingency Response Group superintendent of operations, plans and programs, guides Tech. Sgt. Randy Walgren, 36th Mobility Response Squadron NCO in charge of aerial port operations, in moving drinking water rations July 20, 2015, on Wake Island Airfield. The 36th CRG deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts after the small atoll was evacuated a few days earlier for Typhoon Halola. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Master Sgt. Iain Morrison, 36th Contingency Response Group superintendent of operations, plans and programs, guides Tech. Sgt. Randy Walgren, 36th Mobility Response Squadron NCO in charge of aerial port operations, in moving drinking water rations July 20, 2015, on Wake Island Airfield. The 36th CRG deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts after the small atoll was evacuated a few days earlier for Typhoon Halola. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Capt. Clark Morgan, 36th Mobility Response Squadron contingency engineer, plies corroded metal debris from airfield pavement July 20, 2015, on Wake Island Airfield. A team with the 36th CRG at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts, and surveyed the runway to ensure adequate flightline safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Capt. Clark Morgan, 36th Mobility Response Squadron contingency engineer, plies corroded metal debris from airfield pavement July 20, 2015, on Wake Island Airfield. A team with the 36th CRG at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts, and surveyed the runway to ensure adequate flightline safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

A civil engineer team with the 36th Contingency Response Group tests subsurface reliability of Wake Island Airfield, July 20, 2015, on Wake Island. The Airmen assisted in storm recovery efforts after the island was evacuated a few days earlier in preparation forTyphoon Halola. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

A civil engineer team with the 36th Contingency Response Group tests subsurface reliability of Wake Island Airfield, July 20, 2015, on Wake Island. The Airmen assisted in storm recovery efforts after the island was evacuated a few days earlier in preparation forTyphoon Halola. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Capt. Clark Morgan, 36th Mobility Response Squadron contingency engineer, surveys the pavement on Wake Airfield for cracks and other damage July 20, 2015, on Wake Island. A team with the 36th CRG at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts, and surveyed the runway to ensure adequate flightline safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Capt. Clark Morgan, 36th Mobility Response Squadron contingency engineer, surveys the pavement on Wake Airfield for cracks and other damage July 20, 2015, on Wake Island. A team with the 36th CRG at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, deployed to the atoll to assist in airfield storm recovery efforts, and surveyed the runway to ensure adequate flightline safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD -- Airmen with the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, arrived on Wake Island July 20 to assist uniformed and civilian uniformed and civilian staff in critical storm recovery efforts.

In anticipation of possible storm surges from Typhoon Halola, all base members had been evacuated from the small atoll to Andersen AFB. To allow the teams to return and airfield operations to resume safely, special tactics and combat search and rescue Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group were the first on people to arrive on island in the early morning of July 20.

Accessing the island per static-line parachute drop, the special operators performed an initial survey of conditions with simultaneously airdropped motorcycles.

After being cleared for landing, a small team of the 36th CRG and two explosive ordnance disposal experts then assisted Wake Island Airmen and contractors in reestablishing airfield safety and various services on the island.

"We are constantly training to open and stand-up airfields that have no services at all, that's our core mission," said Capt. Christopher Weaver, 36th Mobility Response Squadron assisting director of operations. "Specifically, in this case, we brought in a pavement evaluation team, which Wake Island Airfield does not have as part of its permanent-party personnel."

Wake Island is a coral limestone atoll made of three small islands and has the longest strategic runway in the Pacific islands at nearly 10,000 feet. Operations were transferred from the U.S. Navy to the Air Force in 1972 and current mission of the Airmen is to provide support for operations in the Indo-Asia Pacific theater as a refueling and emergency divert field for transiting aircraft.

The assessment team began their initial pavement evaluation with a visual survey of the condition of the airfield surface. The experts looked for cracks, potholes and other signs of deterioration said Master Sgt. Iain Morrrison, 36th CRG superintendent of operations, plans and programs.

After the initial survey, the team drilled holes on select locations of the runway. Using a device called a dynamic cone penetrometer, they tested the ground beneath the airfield's asphalt surfaces.

"Every location we tested out here on Wake turned out to be well above the necessary safety parameters," Morrison said. 

With low elevation above sea level and a large lagoon directly bordering the runway, experts feared the storm may have affected the integrity of the flightline, yet the team could quickly and confidently give the runway their approval to resume regular operations, Morrison added.

"We had good, current information on this airfield, so our check went very smoothly," he said. "We simply had to make a few spot checks to make sure pavement strength was still there. Based on our tests, and given how strong it was, we don't have any concerns at this point."

From power generation to food facilities as the initial focus, followed closely by potable water supply, the Wake Island Airfield managers were able to quickly reestablish most station operations. 
  
"The mission here on Wake Island has been conducted seamlessly," Weaver said. "All of the technical experts connected and worked well together."

While the safety inspection of the airfield is only the beginning of a larger effort to resume regular operations, Master Sgt. Yusef Saad, Detachment 1, Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, contracting officer and one of only four active-duty Airmen assigned to Wake Island, said the help form the experts of the CRG was vital in expediting the airfield reopening.

"The support we received was important," he continued. "Once we were evacuated to Guam they made us feel like home and were always there to lend a helping hand. With their help, we will be able to resume normal operations sooner than expected."