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Al Udeid Airmen clean house

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Paul Gorman
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

Airmen deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, set out to remove years of accumulated clutter during a base-wide cleanup initiative December 3-10, 2020.

The event name “Klean the Deid” paid homage to the origin of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing with the K that represented the unit when first established as a bombardment group in World War II.

Maintaining the base’s grounds and facilities is a function of the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. In late October, 1st Lt. Jordan Sowden, the 379th ECES project planner and host nation coordinator, was tasked to develop a voluntary large-scale base beautification event.     

“If it's going to remain voluntary, and we want maximum participation, the best course of action is to make it a friendly competition,” said Sowden. “So that’s the route I opted to take with Klean the Deid.”

Sowden briefed the concept to multiple levels of leadership, incorporating suggestions for improvements along the way. By late November, the final plan was approved and details sent to every Airman in the Wing.

Would-be participants were encouraged to form teams, and challenged to collect, document and dispose of improperly discarded or abandoned materials throughout the base. Over the course of the week, teams would be awarded points for each pound of trash collected, divided by the number of members on their team.

The five highest scoring teams would be treated to a fully-catered block party where the winning team would receive recognition and a commander’s coin from 379th AEW Commander Brig. Gen. Dan Tulley, a Klean the Deid trophy and of course, bragging rights.

By opening day 239 Airmen had accepted the challenge, and 21 teams from multiple units and squadrons set out to clean house at Al Udeid AB.

As each new location was cleared, photos of the collected trash were submitted for verification.

“You don’t tend to see it simply driving around base – perhaps a stray water bottle here or there,” said Sowden. “But when they sent me pictures, the sheer amount of trash they were able to compile was incredible!”

Tech. Sgt. Margaret Kushnar-Door, noncommissioned officer in charge of materiel management with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, organized the largest team to enter the competition at 50 Airmen strong.

“The materiel management flight has 14 sections and about 160 Airmen, so organizing our team was mainly accomplished by a couple of persistent emails and a well-organized spreadsheet,” said Kushnar-Door.

In order to give all 50 an opportunity to contribute, she organized seven different cleanup opportunities, each of which drew 15-30 Airmen.

According to Kushnar-Door, the rotational nature of expeditionary bases is a major contributing factor to accumulating clutter.

“It's so easy to assume that the next rotation will take care of it, so it just builds up collecting dust,” she said.

Teams collected everything from stray cardboard and water bottles to abandoned tires, pallets, cable spools and shipping containers. The material was removed in trash bags, on flat-bed trucks or, when necessary, by industrial forklifts.

Wood and metal objects were separated for recycling, while any material deemed hazardous was safely removed and properly disposed of by 379th ECES environmental engineers.

By the end of the competition, the 239 Airmen taking part had collected more than 775,000 pounds of trash.

In light of the event’s considerable success, senior leadership approved additional opportunities for all participating Airmen to take part in a block party to celebrate their achievement.

During a Jan. 2 recognition ceremony, the first place trophy was awarded to the Desert Rats – a 13 Airmen team from the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron.

Sowden saw Klean the Deid as something that could easily be carried forward to improve base living and working conditions for years to come.  

“I definitely encourage future rotations to develop and improve upon the program,” said Sowden. “Whether we’re just here for a few months or a year or two, we owe it to one another to maintain a living environment we can all take pride in.”