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Civil engineers train to rapidly repair airfields

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah Tancer
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron conducted an Air Force Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery exercise at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, June 24-25, 2022.

“This concept utilizes the appropriate personnel and necessary resources to get an airfield back up and running after an attack,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Kohn, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal craftsman with the 378th ECES. “The civil engineer squadron is the primary agency responsible for making that happen.”

The exercise consisted of three teams and three parts. Airfield Damage Assessment teams, made up of the 378th ECES engineer flight and the EOD flight, scout the airfield and report the damage and hazards to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Emergency Operation Center. The EOC function was only verbally simulated for this specific exercise.

After assessing the airfield the EOD Airmen will focus on rapid explosive hazard mitigation of any unexploded ordnance found on or next to the taxi-ways or runways that would inhibit an aircraft from taking off and neutralizing the threat.

During the exercise, EOD trained its members on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain vehicle operation, airfield scouting, ordnance removal through “Blow & Go” and “Chain Drag'' methods, and UXO information relay and reconnaissance. Leadership chose to use inert training material to both avoid unnecessary risk and allow for better training visuals after mock ignition.

“Overall, the training went very well,” said Kohn. “Our EOD techs received excellent hands-on training and experience in life-saving methods, and the engineers gained experience working with EOD practicing an extremely important war-time task.”

However the ADA and EOD teams were just day one, the third phase of RADR is repair.

The 378th ECES’s repair team juggernaut, the dirt boyz, began their work before sunrise the next day.

In a real-world attack, they would work on the heels of EOD repairing any damage to the airfield caused by the attack or created while clearing UXOs. For training purposes, the exercise was split between two days to avoid the unnecessary safety risk of working in high heat conditions.

“RADR is a newer concept that requires the entire squadron to partake in and demonstrate the cliché of ‘one team one fight,” said Tech. Sgt. Collin Tompkins, a pavements and heavy equipment craftsman, with the 378th ECES. “The purpose of this training is to ensure that the rotation of people that we have now, will know their roles during a real-world event. Everyone in CE should already know what to do but it helps to practice with the team that you have and set the tone and expectations of how we would operate in a real situation.”

The team utilized available 378th ECES equipment to the fullest extent while cutting out cratered portions of the mock airfield, digging out rubble, clearing debris and mixing multiple layers of quikcrete. They did this until the pit was as level, flat and solid as the rest of the runway.

“We are professionals and nothing compares to what we do,” said Tompkins. “We will continue to hone our skill sets and ensure that aircraft launch as quickly as possible to accomplish their mission.”

In theory under RADR conditions time equals lethality. Modern technology and base defense systems can track the trajectory of most enemy munitions and aircraft. In the event some make it through, the faster the airfield is repaired the quicker the base's aircraft can respond to the enemy threat.