JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Roughly 90 miles away from the Air Base side of Joint Base Charleston is a 3,500-foot runway known as the assault landing zone at North Auxiliary Airfield in North, South Carolina.
Although geographically separated from Joint Base Charleston, North Auxiliary Airfield is a vital asset to the Joint Base mission.
Team Charleston’s 628th Civil Engineer Squadron operates the base. The base directly supports the 437th and 315th Airlift Wing’s C-17 Globemaster III aircrew training and proficiency training.
“The mission of the fire department here is the same as anywhere,” said Chris Cunningham, 628th CES driver and operator. “We protect life, property and the environment, just as our brothers and sisters on the Air Base and Naval Weapons Station sides of Joint Base Charleston. Our primary responsibility here is the aircraft. Things go wrong, aircraft have a lot of moving parts and sometimes mistakes happen. That’s where we come in. We are here to directly support the 437th Airlift Wing’s ability to train its crews.”
The only permanently assigned personnel at North Auxiliary Airfield are rotational firefighters and a civilian grounds keeper.
“Throughout the week, we work on a lot of online training classes to ensure we’re keeping up with our certifications,” said Kimberly Bolt, 628th CES lead firefighter. “We also conduct daily training to include live fires, driver operations, pumping operations, HAZMAT training, rescue operations, wildland training and emergency medical training all while practicing firefighter safety.”
The firefighters provide 24-hour emergency services to the base as well as the surrounding communities.
“You cannot assign value to life,” said Cunningham. “That is our primary responsibility, as well as the multi-million-dollar aircraft. If I have an impact on just one of these things, I believe it could very well save American lives down the line.”
Cunningham said while they do not provide transportation services, they do have a mutual aid agreement with Orangeburg County Emergency Medical Services to provide transport to nearby medical facilities.
“Our mission here is very important to me as a whole department,” said Bolt. “We enable the mission to the C-17 crews to become proficient in their flying activities by providing them with our Emergency Service protection. We support combat airlift operations to minimize death, injury and property losses in the airfield environment and maintain an excellent relationship with the flying squadrons. We are fully engaged in the support of the Joint Base mission.”