For most members of Scott AFB, 4:30 p.m. signifies the end of the duty day at their unit. They pack up their things and make their way home, maybe to see their families, kick up their legs and put on their favorite show, or meet up with some friends for some local fun.
For other Team Scott members, however, their duty day may be just beginning. Perhaps they’re grabbing “breakfast” or are in a deep sleep, but for the guys who keep the planes moving and the base safe while others are sleeping, working the “night shift” has become part of their routine.
Working nights is different than working days or working swings. You could say it’s more relaxing, but when stuff happens, it’s exciting, you’re hands on, especially if you’re on patrol, getting out there face to face with people that are probably about to have a really bad day and you’re there to keep them safe and make the process go as smooth as possible.
Airman 1st Class Jorden Trostel, 375th Security Forces Squadron
“I’ve been working nights since September of last year,” said Airman 1st Class Jorden Trostel, 375th Security Forces Squadron.
“It was not out of preference when I first got here, but it would be out of preference after working so long. Working nights is different than working days or working swings. You could say it’s more relaxing, but when stuff happens, it’s exciting, you’re hands on, especially if you’re on patrol, getting out there face to face with people that are probably about to have a really bad day, and you’re there to keep them safe and make the process go as smooth as possible.”
When not assigned to patrol, Trostel handles installation entry control by overseeing who is allowed on the base or the flight line. Trostel’s shift begins at 9:45 p.m., where he and other members of his flight “mount up,” which involves putting on gear and arming up for the shift. From there, he works until the flights change at 6 a.m.
For Trostel, patrol is where he really gets to test his training, watching the streets, getting dispatch calls and keeping the base safe with a little more freedom and responsibility, while knowing he has to be there when and if something happens.
“It’s exhilarating, it’s an adrenaline rush because you know you have to keep a cool head, and that’s where the difficulty lies in it,” said Trostel. “Knowing that you could walk into something potentially dangerous but having to keep your head, trusting your training and those around you.”
Trusting the people around him is paramount in an occupation riddled with potentional danger. However, getting to know those people has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
“My favorite memories of the job are definitely meeting people that I’ve met on the job so far,” said Trostel. “Your personal skills come more from them, your training comes more from them, you get really close and it gives you that bond with them that you can trust them and that when something goes on, you can go into a dangerous situation and know they have your back.”
Since working throughout the night and sleeping through the day offers scarce opportunity to interact with people who work a traditional daytime schedule, some night crew members naturally become close with fellow co-workers.
“It can be stressful, but it’s also nice sometimes,” said Airman 1st Class Patrick McLoughlin, 375th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter.
“If you don’t have any brothers and sisters at home, it’s nice to say you got a family at work. I’m proud to say I come to work every day, and I’m coming to see a family.”
McLoughlin said he joined the Air Force firefighter “family” after volunteering as a civilian for about six years in Connecticut. He is also one of four members in his own family to become a firefighter in the Air Force.
McLoughlin’s shifts are commonly called “48’s” among the firefighters—48 hours on, 48 hours off. While on duty, the firefighters must be ready to go for an emergency at all times because they have little time to respond.
With regard to stress, this job at this base is not terrible. However, here at Scott, when it rains it pours. So we’ll have instances where we have no traffic at all and then we get multiple aircraft all at the same time all wanting to do something different, so you have to be able to go zero to 60 in a split second and be ready for it.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Carmignani with Air Traffic Control
“We have a minute to get on just our bunkers, which is our pants and our coat and a Nomex and then get on the truck,” said McLoughlin. “Once you’re on the truck you got another minute to get your pack on, your mask on, to get on scene. So in total you have anywhere from a 1:45 to 2 minutes to get fully dressed out. Most of the time in the middle of the night you wake up, kind of rubbing your eyes like, ‘what was that?’ Trying to listen to what’s going on, hear what you’re going for so it’s a mad dash getting to the truck when you’re half awake.”
Though McLoughlin is in uniform during the traditional duty hours, his work day does not end at 4:30 p.m.
The firefighters must stay at the station during the evening and throughout the night because a call for assistance may come at any time. To pass the time, the firefighters usually gather in the lounge area in the fire station.
“Most of the time here on B shift we all like to get together after dinner around 6 o’clock, watch a movie, a lot of the time people bring in game consoles,” said McLoughlin. “We’re big on Mario Party and Mario cart. It’s how we spend our nights sometimes if we’re not busy with calls.”
Though work can occasionally be slow, McLoughlin said working around the clock also is rewarding.
“It’s definitely a huge sense of pride. The biggest thing about it is knowing that you can help somebody,” said McLoughlin. “Whether it’s just going to someone’s house for an activated alarm, just giving them a sense of safety, saying ‘everything’s alright it’s good to go,’ or if you come up to a big scale and there’s an accident.
“Someone’s trapped and you’re trying to get them out of the car and just knowing they get to the hospital and they come out safe, that’s probably the biggest reward knowing you’re helping somebody.”
While firefighters and security forces ensure the safety and security of the base, another team at the 15th Operational Weather Squadron battles a different type of threat throughout the night—one that lurks in the skies.
“When I first came in I was like, ‘Oh weather, that’s just on the TV,’” said Staff Sgt. Hannah Stanley, 15th OWS weather forecaster and shift supervisor. “I didn’t realize the impact we have on even civilians.
“We write a forecast and civilian pilots look at it as well and use it. It’s not just Air Force and as well as the watches, warnings, and advisories that we do, those are looked at by everybody. Pilots flying in need to know about it so it’s not just the base that we’re specifically forecasting for. It’s people that are maybe coming in and planning missions around it.”
The 15th OWS forecasts for the Northeast continental, starting over the Dakotas spanning all the way to Maine. It then extends to everything south of it until Missouri and Kentucky. Each region within the Northeast continental will have three to four forecasters assigned to it, and they have different locations which will be airfields that they give watches, warnings, and advisories for. Each forecaster will have two to four bases that they will issue warnings for, said Stanley.
Each flight moves through two-month rotations of day shifts, swing shifts, and mid shifts. According to Stanley, the pulse of the night shift can be just as busy as days and swing shift.
“A lot of people would think that mid shift would be slower for us, and it’s really not,” said Stanley. “It’s maybe a little bit more of a relaxed environment because there’s not a lot of leadership and all of that, but as far as weather operations, it doesn’t stop.”
I didn’t realize the impact we have on even civilians. We write a forecast and civilian pilots look at it as well and use it. It’s not just Air Force and as well as the watches, warnings, and advisories that we do, those are looked at by everybody. Pilots flying in need to know about it so it’s not just the base that we’re specifically forecasting for. It’s people that are maybe coming in and planning missions around it.
Staff Sgt. Hannah Stanley, 15th OWS weather forecaster and shift supervisor
Like other Scott teams, camaraderie helps the team battle through to combat the night shift.
“I enjoy mid shifts more than I enjoy day shifts. It’s a little bit more lively and there’s just more interaction,” said Stanley. “There’s actually more camaraderie on shift just because it’s like everyone’s so tired and just trying to get through it.”
While the 15th OWS monitors weather screens for Scott’s events, personnel safety, and Scott’s aerial missions, another group stalks the night skies from 160 feet above ground to ensure the safety and security of the air space.
Air Traffic Control, while not as busy throughout, still mans the control tower through all hours of the day and night.
Scott has to have night time operations because it is fixed to regional airports.
The airliner will come later in the evening, as well as supporting military requirements and refueling. Scott has refuelers that refuel into the night so that requires ATC to stay to control the airport itself.
“To be honest, not a lot of stressful things have happened at night,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Carmignani, ATC. “Flying slows down a little bit during the nighttime, so there’s not a lot of difficulty at night with the exception of that it’s dark and we have to follow extra rules.”
Though the flying seemingly slows at night, ATC is considered a more stressful job than most, and Scott is complex in that it operates both military and civilian aircraft simultaneously, which is uncommon for AF instillations.
“With regard to stress, this job at this base is not terrible,” said Carmignani.
“However, here at Scott, when it rains it pours. So we’ll have instances where we have no traffic at all and then we get multiple aircraft all at the same time all wanting to do something different, so you have to be able to go zero to 60 in a split second and be ready for it.”
With the amount of traffic ATC can see, combined with many moving parts, Carmignani said a team effort is imperative.
“It’s all about CRM which is crew resource management,” said Carmignani. “It is drilled in your head from day one in air traffic control that you live and you die as a team.
As a person, it’s made me, a better person overall. I’d say I was a decent person before joining the Air Force, but dealing with rank structure, going through BMT, being away from everything, being cutoff, It definitely changes a person. You can take it one of two ways, you can take it and stay the exact same or take it and make yourself a better person, and that’s what I believe I have done.
Airman 1st Class Jorden Trostel, 375th Security Forces Squadron
“You can’t be held accountable for someone else’s mistake, however, that if you see something going wrong, you help your crew members. It’s a team concept. Without my crew members doing the job that they do, I wouldn’t be as effective as I am.”
Furthermore, the Airmen working the night shifts at Scott may have arduous hours, but they are up, courageously serving and protecting the base while ensuring Scott’s mission never sleeps.
“It’s made me a better person overall,” said Trostel. “I’d say I was a decent person before joining the Air Force, but dealing with rank structure, going through basic training, being away from everything, and being cutoff definitely changes a person.
“You can take it one of two ways: You can stay the exact same or make yourself a better person, and that’s what I believe I have done.”