ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, OK (TNN) - Altus Air Force Base reopened its Assault Landing Zone Friday morning. A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the reconstruction of the short runway from asphalt to concrete.
Airmen flying the C-17's use the Assault Landing Zone for training about 150 times a week. 32 squadrons and 14 countries train here. Lt. Col. Carlos Berdecia, the Commander of the 58 Airlift Squadron, said it teaches the airmen how to land without much space.
"On this scenario, we're on concrete, but a lot of the times it's on dirt as well," he said.
The short runway is 3,500 feet and 1/3 the size of a commercial runway.
"An aircraft that is 585,000 pounds or a heavy weighted aircraft landing on a short environment trying to get as much cargo in there as possible for the warfighter, that's what we're trying to stimulate," Lt. Col. Berdecia said.
Col. Eric Carney, the Commander 97th Air Mobility Wing, said every student in a C-17 comes to Altus Air Force Base for basic crew qualifications to do ALZ. Col. Carney is happy to have the short runway open again because he said some airmen left Altus without being certified to the level they would have.
"Getting this back open today means we can provide the operational units out there who are taking the fight to the enemy and doing the missions for the United States Air Force around the globe to their full qualifications," Col. Carney said.
He said it’s special to him for a number of reasons. As a commander, he’s wanted this for the airmen and as a C-17 pilot he knows the importance of the ALZ.
"The training that I've done here gave me the confidence that I was able to take forward when I went into Afghanistan, when into Iraq, when into other places in our world and needed to execute missions for our country and be able to use it to its full range of capabilities," he said.
Col. Carney said he's wanted to see it become a concrete runway for around 11 years now because the asphalt kept needing repairs.
"The ability to have a runway that will stay in its condition and last. So, we don’t have uninterrupted training and the quality training that we need is hard to fully put a price on,” he said. “We’re looking at a 50-year assault zone to be able to train C-17′s, crew members, and whatever airplane comes to replace the C-17.”