496 ABS provides air power platform

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicole Keim
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The tarmac is lined with aircraft, waiting and ready to move to a forward deployed location. The 496th Air Base Squadron, a geographically-separated unit from the 86th Airlift Wing, provides a worldwide platform for air power.

With a unit of only 600 personnel, Airmen at Morón make up only 25 percent of that population. Team Morón is comprised of U.S. Airmen, Marines and Spanish air force members, who operate together to keep wheels off the ground and in the fight.

“This assignment is different,” said Lt. Col. Mario Verrett, 496th Air Base Squadron commander and U.S. Forces Morón Air Base, Spain commander. “One of the unique things about being here is that we are a geographically separated unit, under the 86th Operations Group at Ramstein. We are pretty much a ‘mini-wing.’ All of the different features and comforts an Airman would have at Ramstein, are a little difficult here.”

With such a highly-trafficked airfield, it is a challenge for the small population of Airmen who serve here.

“We have a unit of about 600 personnel,” Verrett continued. “For an Airman on your first assignment, you may be accustomed to seeing five to 7,000 Airmen at a wing, but they’re coming to a very small unit that runs an entire installation . . . With that, there is a lot expected immediately when they land here, but it is also a family atmosphere. That is the positive side, because as a new Airmen you aren’t drowning in a wing of [thousands] of people.”

The partnership between sister services provides a unique experience for first-term service members. It also brings a certain camaraderie and community mindset.

“Although we will always have somewhat of a sibling rivalry, it is also an adventure for the Marines to be on an air base rather than a Navy or Marine base,” said who. “The caveat to that is that we are also on a Spanish base with Spanish (service members).That is a win because most of us don’t get a chance to do a unique, joint-service [assignment] until later on in our career. To have that at your first assignment, and realize how those work together is a score.”

Given that Morón Airmen operate as a squadron to keep the base running, many of them must wear multiple hats in their positions early on in their careers, said Alicia Petty-Leal, 496th Air Base Squadron host nation liaison.

“I think this assignment is special for Team Morón, because you have not only U.S. Air Force, contractors, Marines, but also Spanish units,” said Petty-Leal. “These units deploy and work together. . . We are exposed to so much at this base, where young Airmen have to learn the different Air Force specialty codes, additional duties and work experiences they wouldn’t normally see.”

Senior Airman Brittany Liljenquist, 496th Air Base Squadron, airfield management shift lead, explained that while communication can be a challenge, it is no hindrance for Team Morón.

“It is interesting to work with more than just Airmen,” she said. “At an assignment like this, you see different viewpoints and may experience something new, every day. Everything on the airfield has to go through the Spanish air force . . . sometimes that is difficult with communication. Although we have a language barrier, everything flows smoothly in the end.”