May 17, 2002

Oceanside Airman Serves at Stationary Airfield

by John Dendy

Camp Justice, Indian Ocean — The son of an Oceanside couple serves his country on a watery edge in the war on terror. His new, albeit temporary, home is a narrow tropical jungle reef in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles south of the southern India coast.

Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Adversalo, son of Antonio and Estrella Adversa-lo, Picacho Court, Oceanside, says despite the tropical feel to the reef, this is no Margarita-ville. It’s more of a stationary aircraft carrier for the coalition aircraft who’ve dropped more ordinance on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan than any other unit during the current war on terror.

Photo by Greg Kobashigawa
Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Adversalo rinses bomb components at a fenced-in area on a muggy tropical reef in the Indian Ocean.

“The bombs we build save our ground troops when they are under pressure from the opposition,” said the 1998 graduate of El Camino High School. “We probably save the life of an American on the ground at least once a day during this war. Our work makes a difference.”

The mission of putting bombs on target almost 4,000 miles away in Afghanistan is comparable to flying from Chicago to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Success falls on the backs of bomber and aerial refueling aircraft that commuter together from the tropics to Afghanistan. But it takes more than flyers to pull these missions off, said Adver-salo, an Air Force munitions expert.

“I unload bombs right off of ships, put them together and then send them on their way to the airfield. They won’t work unless I install the parts right,” he said. “The end product is big detonations instead of ‘duds’ on the ground in Afghanistan. People’s lives depend on me doing my job right - knowing that keeps me going.”

All-in-all, job satisfaction can be high for the people helping to send the aircraft on their long journeys.

“Most bomb builders write messages on the bombs to express thoughts and opinions,” Adversalo said. “Others do if for personal reason, and some do it to show the completion of a build. I do it, too, but I don’t have a favorite message right now. What I really like is seeing is those big birds coming back empty -- it shows our efforts weren’t wasted and our product was used well.”

Adversalo said the challenges of this war started long before he assumed his duties on the reef. Just getting to the site was a challenge in itself - the sandy ridge has no other land within 1,000 miles with India to the north, Madagascar to the West, Indonesia to the east and nothing but Antarctica way to the south. The only way in and out is through government ships or planes.

“I flew here from Louisiana -- a flight of about 55 hours with layovers,” he said. “I started building bombs about 12 hours after that long flight and it’s been go, go, go since then. This was is all about ammunition, so people like me don’t get too many days off. It varied from 8- to 12- hour shifts. The work is in the open and when the sun shines it gets really hot - other times the rain and lighting are so bad we have to take shelter.”

And the challenges continue during off duty time. Force members live in tents -- which cyclones occasionally threaten to throw into the sea - or on a merchant ship that leaves residents with sea legs once they get back on shore.

Still, this spectacular location east of equatorial Africa -- where a 30-minute bus tour can show you the entire location --holds elements of an adventure vacationer’s dream. There’s tropical windsurfing and fishing for 200-pound marlin, and while it’s no Pebble Beach, playing the 9-hole golf course is free -- and a hoot to do with no shoes on. And the sea is so warm, snorklers can wade in and play tourist with thousands of brilliantly colored tropical fish.

“The things I miss are personal, like my fiancée -- who I was supposed to marry this month. I also miss driving my own car and going out on the town,” he said. “There’s only one phone company here, so that definitely limits my calling options. But fortunately e-mail is free, and we have the only post office in the Indian Ocean.”

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