Northwest Field critical to training, ecosystem
By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 13, 2010
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Andersen Air Force Base's Northwest Field has, over the years, become a critical training asset to support current operations.
Along with essential contingency training, the area is also important to the future of Guam's ecosystem, with several endangered species calling the area home.
Northwest Field offers several unique training opportunities, not found elsewhere in the U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility, which enables a realistic training environment for the 36th Contingency Response Group.
"Northwest field is an invaluable location to provide a venue where the 36th CRG can practice one of its primary missions, air base opening, as well as humanitarian assistance operations," said Col. Daniel Settergren, 36th CRG commander. "It also provides an austere location to bed-down CRG airmen who must train to operate in exactly that type of environment."
Also at Northwest Field is the Commando Warrior training program. It provides pre-deployment training for all Pacific Air Forces security forces personnel deploying in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In addition to providing one-of-a-kind training in a single location, Northwest Field has unique environmental assets, which must be protected. The Air Force works daily to maintain its partnership with local wildlife authorities and continue to keep its reputation as good stewards of the environment intact.
"The limestone forest of Northwest Field and also the larger area of Andersen is the last large expanse of limestone forest on Guam," said Mr. David Lotz, 36th Civil Engineering Squadron natural resources planner. "This area is the habitat for several endangered species of birds and needs to be protected for the eventual reintroduction of those species."
Northwest Field is also home to areas of historic and current significance to the Air Force and the people of Guam. The Northern Aquifer, Guam's main source of fresh water can be found 500 feet below the surface of the field. The airfield qualifies for the national historic registry because of its importance to air operations and their historical impact since its construction. And of archaeological significance, there is a site of ancient Chamorro artifacts the Air Force goes to great lengths to preserve.
Maintaining a second-to-none training area while protecting the native ecosystem and historical sites is a delicate process involving close coordination with several agencies, dedication of resources, and preventing conflicting uses.
"All training planned on Northwest Field is coordinated with many Wing and outside agencies such as the environmental office in the 36th CES," said Colonel Settergren. "They conduct environmental impact analyses, employ an environmental assessment team, conduct a cross-tell of information and analyze whether or not the training event will adversely affect the environment."
The Air Force has invested in a variety of measures to protect the delicate habitat at Northwest Field. For example, barriers prevent foliage-destroying deer and pig populations from damaging native bird nesting areas, said Mr. Lotz. Andersen is also actively engaged in the protection of endangered sea turtle nests, which are found in increasing numbers every year thanks to the protection efforts of the 36th CES Environmental Flight.
"The balance between protecting the environment and protecting our nation is one that takes extreme dedication and perseverance," said Brig. Gen. Philip Ruhlman, 36th Wing commander. "The 36th Wing at Andersen AFB is committed to doing both with excellence. As we demonstrated by passing last week's no-notice EPA inspection, we continue to excel in this regard. We, the US Air Force, along with our partners the US Navy, are appointed stewards of this land and promise to continue its preservation with exceptional standards."
Northwest Field will continue to serve as an essential element of historical, cultural and environmental importance while providing an option to get Andersen's Airmen the training they need to save lives and complete the mission. All the while Andersen will continue to champion the protection of these resources and maintain the harmony and balance between mission readiness and environmental responsibility.