Civil engineers make critical runway repairs, keep missions moving

170908-F-ZI207-0010.JPG

Senior Airman Hunter Conatser, a heavy equipment operator assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, uses a Tymco sweeper to suck out the debris left behind from a spall cut at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 8, 2017. The spall team uses a k-12 diamond blade saw to cut out arectangular area for the repair. The sweeper person comes behind to clean out the area in preparation for cementing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

170908-F-ZI207-0046.JPG

Senior Airman Chad Belley, Staff Sgt. Justin Montgomery and Tech. Sgt. Michael Martin (left to right), heavy equipment operators assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, removes the large debris from the cut spall area at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 8, 2017. The dump truck is used to haul all the debris from the area and help eliminate the accumulation of foreign object debris on the airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

170908-F-ZI207-0078.JPG

Tech. Sgt. Michael Martin (right), a heavy equipment operator assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, uses a trowel to flatten minor ridges and holes, as well as the embed aggregate particles in concrete at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 8, 2017. This process brings a smoother "cream" consistency to the concrete surface for a final finish. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

170908-F-ZI207-0123.JPG

Tech. Sgt. Michael Martin, a heavy equipment operator assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, uses a trowel to flatten minor ridges and holes, as well as the embed aggregate particles in concrete at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Sept. 8, 2017. This process brings a smoother "cream" consistency to the concrete surface for a final finish. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Maintaining an airfield is never an easy task, especially when it’s one of the busiest in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility. Responsible for making critical runway repairs, the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s heavy equipment operator team ensures that the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s airfield is operational and ready for all takeoffs and landings in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Ensuring the entire airfield is a safe environment and free of hazards to aircraft is an essential function to maintaining the ability for the U.S. Air Force to deliver quick and decisive airpower downrange in the fight against ISIS.

“Every effort must be made to minimize the risk of pavement damage leading to aircraft damage,” said Capt. Steven Young, the airfield operations flight commander assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron. “Failure to properly maintain these pavements could result in significant impact to our operations. If aircraft do not have a safe runway from which to take-off and land, where would we be as an effective weapon system?”

With the 386th AEW’s airfield being a major hub for C-130 and C-17 aircraft, the runways take a beating. Inspections of the airfield pavements are conducted regularly to rate the surface condition of each section.

“It is important to monitor and track the surface condition of pavements to identify pavement problems early and plan appropriate repairs,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Joseph, the operations flight commander assigned to the 386th ECES. “Our continual evaluation program also helps determine the most cost-effective maintenance and repair actions.”

Airfield operations works closely with the ECES to identify runway deficiencies and facilitate repairs in a way that least impacts flight schedules and aircraft operations.

“The mission is always on the move, both on operations side and civil engineering,” said Young. “We work closely together to make sure ECES has the materials and time to access the runway and fix these issues within short timeframes.”

The heavy equipment operator team works quickly in the extreme desert climate to perform all required spall repairs to the airfield and limit their effect on the flying schedules.

“Occasionally, an aircraft requires access to a portion of the runway that is closed for repair,” said Young. “In that case we ensure all obstacles are out of the way and all pavements that aircraft will travel over are in good condition.  As soon as the aircraft is off the closed portion, the repair team swiftly forges onward.”

For the month of August alone, the heavy equipment operator team’s ability to keep the airfield operational made it possible for the 386th AEW’s aircraft to successfully fly more than 4,100 hours, said Joseph.

“We are very proud of this team, their accomplishments and are very proud to say ‘ENGINEERS – LEAD THE WAY!’” said Joseph.