353rd SOG aids Wake Island airfield opening

WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD -- Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam, July 18, 2015 to support the 36th Crisis Response Group with the opening of Wake Island airfield after a typhoon hit the island.

Prior to Typhoon Halola’s arrival, more than 125 Department of Defense members were evacuated July 15, 2015 leaving the island vacant. After the typhoon moved past the island, a Special Tactics Team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron was tasked to conduct the initial assessment of the runway.

“The 353rd SOG responded quickly and efficiently to support the 36th CRG,” said Lt. Col. John Trube, 353rd SOG deputy commander and mission commander. “This operation not only demonstrated the SOG’s ability to quickly deploy anywhere, anytime in the Pacific, but it also showed seamless interoperability between the 36th CRG and the 353rd SOG that led to mission success.”

Staged out of Andersen Air Base, Guam, an MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 1st Special Operations Squadron provided airlift for a Special Tactics jump clearing team and combat search and rescue team to infil Wake Island. After conducting military freefall operations onto an unmarked drop zone, the operators were able to clear the runway, assess the airfield environment and receive the first aircraft within 20 minutes allowing the arrival of a C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, carrying a team from the 36th CRG and Wake Island Airfield staff.

“The sheer size of the Pacific can turn an ordinary mission into a real challenge,” said Lt. Col. Edmund Loughran, 320th STS commander. “Special Tactics operators and MC-130 aircrew provide a rapid response to difficult problems that makes it safer for the next guy to get the job done. I am very proud of what the Team was able to accomplish on Wake Island.”

Once access to the island was gained, the crisis response Airmen from Andersen Air Base worked with the local residents to further assess the area for damage and reestablish the airfield, so normal operations could resume as quickly as possible.

"It was critical that we open the airfield and get Wake Island back online quickly,” said Col. Lee Anderson, 36th CRG commander. “The team from 353rd SOG showed up with skilled operators ready to execute. It's always a pleasure to work with the Quiet Professionals."

Wake Island airfield, located in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and Hawaii, is ran by the U.S. Air Force and is managed by the PACAF Regional Support Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. In addition to being a strategic location in the Pacific, Wake Island serves as a divert airfield for overseas flights.