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MSG Corner: Detachment 1, Diego Garcia

  • Published
  • By MSgt Catherine Forgue, MSgt Benjamin Moles, MSgt LaShawndra Ramsey, MSgt Francisco Rodriguez, MSgt Douglas Shively, and MSgt Jason Zarudny
  • Detachment 1
Detachment 1 is strategically located on the small island of Diego Garcia in British Indian Ocean Territory. Det 1 consists of 28 personnel who make up four flights and a three person Command cell. Each of the four flights in Det 1 has specific responsibilities and capabilities to support a variety of CENTCOM, PACOM and Global Strike operations. The unit's primary mission is to prepare and maintain War Reserve Material (WRM) to include the munitions, facilities, vehicles, equipment and communications infrastructure necessary to establish a Forward Operating Location (FOL) capable of executing national security objectives.

Diego Garcia is the only allied forces location from which to launch air and sea operations in the Indian Ocean region. Det 1 is a tenant unit of the U.S. Naval Support Facility and also shares the island with a small contingent of British customs and security personnel. Although geographically separated, Det 1 is a vital part of the overall 36 WG at Andersen AFB and significantly enhances the ability to project global power and reach.

The structure of the Detachment is unique and has been strategically planned to carry out the functions of the individual Air Force Specialty Codes assigned and provides a highly skilled military work force. Airmen assigned to Det 1 must be fully qualified experts in their duty position. All military personnel serve a one year unaccompanied tour and most positions are one deep slots.

Each of the four Detachment flights is subdivided into multiple functions. The Mission Support Flight has two Civil Engineer personnel, and one person each to provide contract oversight on the POL system, Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) and Transportation (Vehicle Fleet Management) sections. The Communications Flight consists of Network administration, Network Infrastructure and island-wide Land Mobile Radio (LMR) management. The Logistics Flight orders and tracks all Detachment materials and supplies as well as the materials and supplies required for visiting mission operations. Additionally, Logistics manages the WRM program and works closely with mission leadership to ensure Diego Garcia capabilities and processes are understood prior to arrival. Det 1's largest flight is the Munitions Flight which consists of fourteen personnel that inspect and maintain the WRM munitions stockpiles, and provide munitions operations functions.

Because Det 1 is in an isolated location, the unit is confronted with many challenges. For example, Munitions, AGE and Transportation assets constantly struggle with corrosion from the salty sea air. Harsh environmental conditions also wreak havoc on facilities. However, the Det has in place a robust maintenance program and vigilantly monitors the condition of these assets and resources on a constant basis; and as a result of the attentiveness and the pride instilled in the work performed by the personnel within the Detachment, we dare to say the Det has one of the best WRM programs in the command. Another obstacle often confronted at Diego Garcia is the "tyranny of distance" of the PACOM AOR, especially in the area logistics. The prohibition of commercial carriers to the island and the procurement of supplies and materials dependent primarily on sealift tend to cause delays in infrastructure upgrades as well as in efficiently procuring mission related parts and equipment. The Det often confronts these challenges by being more resourceful, efficient and forward thinking when planning for resupply and infrastructure upgrades.

In addition to day to day operational challenges, working and living on a remote island has other associated obstacles. For instance, the tyranny of distance not only affects mission readiness, but also in being able to maintain close contact with our families back home. While not the most advance, access to email and the internet are two resources available for us to maintain contact with our loved ones. Most importantly, the men and women of Det 1 devote considerable effort and attention to fostering the Wingman concept. The unit is very close knit and the Wingman concept is not only necessary, but is evident as a way of life. At Diego Garcia, we make it a priority and a habit to be engaged in knowing the well-being of the personnel in the Det as well as their families. In addition, promoting resiliency and looking out for one another is common practice among members of the Detachment.

Although it may appear that a remote tour on Diego Garcia is difficult at times, there are many positive attributes to the island as well. The Morale, Welfare & Recreation (MWR) program is outstanding and sponsors almost daily fun and fitness events to participate in. Other MWR offerings include a variety of fishing and water sports such as windsurfing, sailing, swimming and snorkeling. Det 1 also strives to maintain partnerships with our U.S. Navy brothers and sisters and our British hosts.

The mission of Det 1 is like no other. Its location in the Indian Ocean is prime for supporting CENTCOM, PACOM and Global Strike operations. Yet, its designation as a Geographically Separated Unit, isolated from the other units in PACAF and having limited access to commercial resources, sometimes makes maintaining a robust FOL challenging. However the presence of a highly skilled military and civilian workforce coupled with working in an environment where ingenuity, resourcefulness, leadership traits, and teamwork are fostered and highly promoted, makes overcoming the multiple obstacles a challenge we eagerly accept. Because we know at the end of the day, the dedication, the knowledge and the pride we have coupled with the positive relationship we have with the other Air Force Detachments and non-Air Force units will always make Det 1 in Diego Garcia ready to support the warfighter at any time.