Joint BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
It’s common for people who work during the weekday at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, to hear the sounds of Retreat and the National Anthem at 4:30 p.m.. It’s also normal for people who live either on the base or near it to hear aircraft taking off for local training flights and real-world missions as they wind down at night and prepare to go to sleep. This is a normal occurrence at JB Charleston; however, this may beg the question, who’s working on the base so late at night?
The reality is JB Carleston operates and is maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and common shifts are days, swings and midnights.
The Airmen who work to keep C-17’s operational understand these different shifts, and they adjust their lives accordingly.
After all, the mission at JB Charleston never sleeps. While many military members are at home for the night, there are still others operating after normal business hours to ensure the Air Force continues to run smoothly and is ready to execute rapid global mobility.
For Staff Sgt. Walter Cooper and Airman 1st Class Tyler Ragdale, both aerospace power general crew chiefs assigned to the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, swing shift is their current work schedule. They have adjusted their lives to meet the needs of the JB Charleston mission, and they find both benefits and value working their shift.
“I feel like on swing shifts I learn a little more because, at least for us, we slow down a little bit,” said Ragdale. “It's not necessarily fast-paced, but we still get the job done.”
For some, swing shifts can be more than just a late night of working. It can create memorable moments and bonds.
“Friday nights on swing shifts are the best day in the world,” said Ragsdale. We can't anticipate it being one of the roughest days because we kind of finish up the workflow for the week. Usually we do a group dinner type deal. We order out food and bring it all in and eat together. We know it can be a rough day. Then again, sometimes it's an easy day, too. It just depends on how the work week goes and how well we can accomplish all our jobs and stuff like that. The best part is the times when we get to sit down together and eat, laugh and joke on our lunch.”
Staying up late or even all night can leave a person feeling exhausted. It doesn't all have to be bad though, there can be some positives, said Cooper.
“During the day it’s kind of hard for us to get things accomplished while we’re at work but on swing shifts, you don’t come in to work until three o'clock,” he said. “ So anything that you need to do, whether it's a run to the DMV, or go to a medical appointment, it’s easier to do.”
The mission is not always complete during normal business hours and can sometimes create a need for different kinds of work environments. From sunup to past sundown JB Charleston and the United States Air Force are executing rapid global mobility around the clock.