Soldier enjoys life at Lajes
By RYAN MATTOX / FOR THE RECORD
LAJES FIELD, AZORES, Portugal – Ever since it was created during the early years of America’s entry into World War II, the airfield on this small island in the northeast Atlantic has been an important crossroads for ships and planes carrying people and cargo to strategic locations throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Today, the son of a Madison couple is one of approximately 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 Tech. Sgt. Ronald Masters, son of Ronald and Sherry Masters of Madison, is an aircraft electrical and environmental craftsman for the 65th Operations Support Squadron.
“I am the lead aircraft electrical and environmental systems technician,” said Masters, a 1999 graduate of Bob Jones High School. “I ensure Lajes Field has gaseous and liquid oxygen servicing capabilities. I also serve as the unit’s deployment, security and training manager.”
Masters 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 premier ‘en route’ stop for all aircraft going to Europe,” said Masters. “Lajes Field allows short-range aircraft the ability to refuel midway across the Atlantic.”
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 people and scenery are very nice,” said Masters. “The weather is great.”
Assignments to Lajes range from 15 months 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.
“When I leave Lajes, I will remember the people and scenery more than anything else,” said Masters.
Masters has been in the Air Force for more than 10 years.
Just as their predecessors have done for the past 67 years, Masters and his fellow airmen will continue to be a strategically vital stop between the U.S. and important military missions overseas.