An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Civil Engineer teams come together to maintain runway, ensure combat airpower

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With combat airpower operations coming and going from Bagram Airfield nearly every three minutes, taking care of the flight line is a vital operation.

Airmen from the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, worked to remove rubber build up on the runway while teaming up with the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron who were performing maintenance on the arresting cable system and worn reflective markings, all in order to ensure another six months of runway integrity.

“I believe that this maintenance is a significant part of what we are trying to keep going (in terms of airpower) in Afghanistan and around the Area of Responsibility,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, 577th EPBS deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. “It’s just a small part of the bigger picture.”

To remove the buildup of rubber caused by the constant air traffic at Bagram, the team from Al Udeid needed to first apply a solvent to begin to break up the rubber. After, they used modified sweepers to grind in the solvent and allow the rubber to separate. Finally, a biodegradable product was applied that foamed underneath the rubber causing it to lift and float away.

However, in order to make this operation happen, the team needed to work in unison and time each application. While this would normally be a simple matter for Airmen who work together every day, the Prime BEEF team is made up a multitude of Air Force specialties from all different bases that come to work together. These plumbers, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians, and electricians bond together as a runway maintenance team, and grow as Airmen from the experience.

“This all starts with your teammates. I had an awesome crew who was willing to adapt and show me how to do this job,” explained Senior Airman Charles Chambers, 577th EPBS, deployed from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. “This has actually helped me grow as a person. With these people being from different places you have to humble yourself, and I am glad I did. It helped me learn who they were and the traits they had so that I could learn how to use equipment that I didn’t understand how to operate in the beginning.”

Once the rubber was removed, the 455th ECES applied paint mixed with reflective beads to the faded runway markings. This simple form of maintenance, once accomplished, can reduce the need for repainting by a year or more, and provide pilots with a clear runway picture when coming and going from Bagram Airfield.

Finally, to ensure all safety devices are serviceable and ready for use, Staff Sgt. Timothy Shearer, 455th ECES, and his team preformed maintenance on the aircraft arresting cable system. The entire length of both cables, over 300 feet long, was extended and inspected for damage. Once they had trimmed off and replaced the portions in need of service, they had to make sure it was meticulously installed to demanding specifications.

These cables are out here to catch the jets in case of an emergency landing, making sure the aircraft lands safely, much like on an aircraft carrier, said Shearer. They have to be the right length or the aircraft will be pulled to one side or the other. It has to be done right.

Throughout the transition of Bagram’s missions over the years, two things have remained constant—airpower and maintenance. Lesley Ellis, Bagram Airfield manager, has witnessed both of these first hand during the 13 years he has been in charge of the runway here.

“We do about 24,000 missions monthly at Bagram. We do combat sorties and resupply for the units at forward operating bases in the area,” said Ellis. “I believe that we are the number one enduring air base in Afghanistan. We are the prime location for anti-terrorism efforts.”

With the 577th EPBEEFS and 455th ECES team coming together to ensure the runway is operable for operations, Bagram Airfield continues to deliver uninterrupted combat airpower in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission.