Today, the son of a Kenedy couple is one of only a little more than 600 U.S. Air Force men and women who operate a sort of “pit stop” for military and commercial aircraft. The small air base is a refueling station where aircrews can get fuel, rest, maintenance and supplies before heading to their final destination.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Robert Schievelbein, son of the Rev. Wally and Julie Schievelbein of Kenedy is a radio frequency transmission systems journeyman with the 65th Communications Squadron.
“We provide high frequency communication to the Mystic Star radio net, supporting the president and vice president, reconnaissance traffic, combat aircraft, support aircraft and sea vessel emergencies,” Schievelbein said.
Schievelbein and his fellow airmen are part of the 65th Air Base Wing tasked with playing an important role in the fight against terrorism by assisting with the movement of war fighters, planes and global communications for commanders. This small base with its huge runway is located on the small island of Terceira in the Azores chain of islands. With rolling hills and green pastures, it’s an idyllic setting for such an important mission.
“We are the primary refueling station for aircraft transiting the Atlantic Ocean,” Schievelbein said.
Although it is 900 miles from the mainland, the Azores is a part of Portugal and contains many of the customs and traditions of that country. From the running of the bulls in the nearby city of Praia da Vitoria just outside of Lajes to the outdoor markets and European-styled houses and farms, the small island gives Americans stationed here a slice of life that is thoroughly European.
“The countryside here is very beautiful and scenic,” said Schievelbein.
Assignments to Lajes range from 15 to 24 months, depending upon whether or not an airman is single or married. As with any overseas location, the experience they take away from here greatly varies from person to person.
“I will remember the camaraderie amongst all the military personnel here at Lajes,” Schievelbein said. He has been in the Air Force for more than four years.
Just as their predecessors have done for the past 67 years, Schievelbein and his fellow airmen will continue to be a strategically vital stop between the U.S. and important military missions overseas.