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386th Civil Engineers repair runway to keep mission flying

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.
Earlier this month, the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron accomplished construction repairs on the primary landing runway of their airfield.

Conditions under the extreme desert heat caused a 30-foot section of asphalt to begin to separate from the underlying base of the runway, breaking off into six to 18-inch pieces. The foreign objects and debris from it has slowly escalated to become a hazard, presenting a risk of breaking loose and damaging aircraft.

“There had been some FOD incidents involving the MQ-9s,” said Maj. Brian McLaughlin 386th ECES engineering flight commander. “They were picking up gravel that was bending props during either the landing or take-off phase.”

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely-piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. The propeller and engine intake for this aircraft are much closer to the ground than the typical C-130 and more susceptible to loose gravel and FOD.

The degradation of the runway and particularly this area has been monitored by the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron airfield management team for six months prior to construction.

“All the projects we do have to be approved by the host nations’ operations group commander and wing commander,” said Capt. Steven Young, 386th EOSS airfield operations flight commander. “We present them a detailed game plan and because of the relationship we have established, the process is fast.”

In early 2019, the 9,300-foot runway is scheduled for heavy repairs for asphalt and concrete sections. This project is funded by the host nation and executed by a contractor under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers management team. Typically, Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer squadrons handle projects like this in the area of responsibility. The RED HORSE squadrons are the U.S. Air Force's heavy-construction units.

“Because of higher priority tasking’s in the AOR there were no RED HORSE squadrons available to help us out,” said 2nd Lt. Dylan Bender, 386th ECES operations flight commander.

Bender also said they developed a plan of attack on how they could use their assets and ensure the runway was operable until the scheduled heavy construction repair. McLaughlin and Bender explained they planned these repairs by consulting the best pavement experts in the Department of Defense including the USACE, Transportation Systems Center, and Tiger Brain consultants who were on site for construction repairs to the base’s second runway.

The 386th ECES will continue to repair necessary areas of the runways to ensure continued, safe flying operations to support the efforts of the airfield and expeditionary mission in Southwest Asia.