Chabelley Airfield: A day in the life for the Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing

The rising sun cast a rosy hue across the early morning sky. Golden fingers of sunlight light the walkway to the road, where Airmen stood dressed in their interceptor body armor.


“Accountability and radio communication are the most important factors before chalking out,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Shaiffer, 776th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron (EABS) emergency manager. “In case the convoys get split up the radios provide a direct link of communication.”

A team lead from the convoy quickly conducts a headcount of the Airmen before they load into sport utility vehicles, while others arm up. While the drive from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti is somewhat short, the uneven roads and changing terrain create a challenge even for the most experienced drivers. 

As the Airmen arrive at their destination, Chabelley Airfield, they are greeted with a narrow dirt path; a gateway to a remote airfield where commodities such as potable water are carefully resourced but a sense of belonging is never in short supply. A feeling that starts with the day’s first order of business … breakfast, served with a smile and often a laugh.

“I feel like my role is impactful,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Guinn, 776th EABS food services supervisor. “I am the one that writes the jokes of the day, I do all of it so people can genuinely have a good day.”

As Airmen finish their first meal, they all disperse to their job sites. Some Airmen head to the wooden civil engineer building, while others walk toward grey-white containerized living units. Although separated by their workstations each of them stands ready to protect U.S. personnel and facilities within the region.

One can’t fail to sense a welcoming-closeness that radiates from how each Airmen greets them or stops to ask if they are new.

“I really love Chabelley. It’s an awesome environment,” said Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Galea, 776th EABS civil engineer operation manager. “I feel like it’s easier to build relationships in Chabelley because it’s so small and you really get to know each other. We bond and form relationships that last more than just a duration of a deployment.”

The relationships aren’t just built during the workday, Airmen take the time to get to know one another during their free time.

“Saturday nights we often meet up to play bingo, watch karaoke, play cards and eat pizza, this all helps boost the morale,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gary White, 776th EABS engineering assistant.

Through each Airmen’s experience, one thing is certain … they make the mission happen every day.

“The Chabelley Airmen amaze me everyday with their initiative and ingenuity,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Esses, 776th EABS installation commander. “They build and maintain their equipment in an austere environment and create opportunities to excel. We have airfield operations personnel augmenting the entry control points and fire fighters operating a backhoe. Everywhere you look they embrace the multi-capable Airmen concept and put it into practice to maximize our efficiency and mission effectiveness. The mission goes on because of the skills and determination of these Airmen.” 

A day in the life of Chabelley is made up of mission driven Airmen who have found a place they can call home; with people they can call family.

“It is never where you are, it’s the people you are with that make it worthwhile,” said Senior Airman Kayla Thompson, 776th EABS client technician.