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Total force integration succeeds on runway

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young
  • 332 Air Expeditionary Wing

Service members assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron are working to repair several areas on the flight line of their base Nov. 28  at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

The team took on the extensive project of repairing various portions of the runway due to wear and tear. The runway had a lot of foreign object debris that can be dangerous to aircraft.

“We had a lot of damaged concrete which could affect the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Larson, a pavement equipment construction operator.  “That’s a big part of our job out here on the runway-- to reduce FOD. We’re repairing the runway to make it suitable for the aircraft.”

The runway has experienced a lot of use due to coalition partners routinely flying missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“This airfield has been used heavily lately as we’ve been flying a lot of sorties giving ISIS a little bit of trouble and keeping them up at night, so we need this airfield in order to sustain this operation,” added Larson, North Dakota,  Air National Guardsman. “The C-17’s, C-130’s, F-15’s, F-16’s and our Coalition partners are flying hot and heavy out of this airfield.” 

The project is not an easy one because they can only lay the concrete first thing in the morning, due to resources and weather, so they do a little bit each day. The project has been going on for two weeks and the team has completed much of the current airfield.

“We laid 900 to 1,000 yards of concrete, repaired 60 dilapidated slabs, and over 425 spalls,” said Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Laidlaw, superintendent of heavy equipment repair.

Laidlaw’s team is tasked to fix the runway, but repairing a runway is not an easy undertaking. The project calls for a lot of labor and a specific skill set that wasn’t readily available in numbers.

There aren’t a lot of heavy equipment operators assigned to the 332nd ECES, so Laidlaw delved into resources within the squadron and utilized plumbers, heating ventilation and air conditioning technicians, and power production technicians in order to  accomplish the sizeable task and complete the mission.

“We’re a conglomerate of active duty and national guardsmen working together on this project,” said Laidlaw. “Due to a lack of ‘dirt boys’  on this jobsite, we have HVAC, power pro, plumbers,  you name it. We came together as a team and trained together as a team and we’re completing this together as one.”

“We blended together,” said Tech Sgt. Erin Eagleson, the Engineering Flight NCOIC and native of Minot, North Dakota. “It’s great, you don’t realize if someone is active duty or guard or from one unit to another unit.”

Before the team could start laying the concrete, they had to test the material for fluidity, workability and strength.

“We performed slump tests and made concrete cylinders to test the PSI of the concrete,” said, Eagleson. “We do this to measure the moisture content in the concrete…the more water in your concrete. The higher your slump number will be.”

Eagleson tests two samples from each truck to ensure they have a quality product. She’s the quality control expert and ensures the concrete will be strong enough.

“We test a cylinder at seven days and at 28 days,” said Eagleson. “This gives us the strength of the concrete and it should be at 50 percent at seven days and at 28 days, it should be measuring at 6,000 psi, which would be a 100 percent.”

There’s a bit of pride in every member of the team as they strive to do their part.

 “This is the whole reason dirt boys exist: to repair damaged airfields,” Laidlaw said. This is why we’re here…It means a lot to everyone to make sure we get these planes back in the air.”

Air Force members assigned to the 332nd Civil Engineer Squadron work quickly to repair a slab on the runaway at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Nov. 28, 2017. The fast pace is necessary because of the wind and the dry weather, which inhibits the normal drying process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)