Dirt Boys restore taxiway in 23 hrs despite record heat

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - Despite record-breaking heat on the Korean peninsula, more than 20 Airmen spent 23 hours making an unusual repair to a flightline taxiway - and set a record of their own.

From Aug. 4 to 6, the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron Operations flight, the Dirt Boys, replaced 18 feet of taxiway after personnel from the 51st Operations Support Squadron discovered a rupture in the cement.

“We went out to do an initial assessment to determine the best way to move forward,” said Maj. Bert Liddell, 51st CES Operations flight commander. “The options were to do it in-house or to do it by contract. Which one would be faster and what are the benefits of both? Ultimately, we felt the best way forward was to use the new and improved way of doing Rapid Airfield Damage Repair (RADR).”

The Dirt Boys utilized RADR processes, which are used to quickly restore a runway to functional use after damage. RADR involves the use of a specialized cement, which sets and hardens to a functional standard in the span of a few hours whereas normal cement can take days.

“There were several days of hot weather that was irregular for here in Korea,” Liddell said. “You have these concrete joints in between the slabs and what happens is that bits of rock and hard substances get inside the joints over time and eventually the concrete has difficulty expanding and contracting.”

When adjoining panels are unable to sustain the heat and pressure and there’s not enough room in the joints, concrete may buckle and cause a rupture. Osan’s taxiway alpha rupture resulted in a 15 x 40-foot repair of concrete.

While the flightline has alternate taxiways, taxiway alpha is used by more than just aircraft traffic.

“We’re always driving around the airfield, taking a look to see if any areas need to be repaired because there’s always traffic,” said Senior Master Sgt. Roger Ivison, 51st CES Operations Flight superintendent. “Even though aircraft are the main users of taxiways, we have support vehicles driving, aircraft vehicles, CE will also be doing tests out there, so it’s not just aircraft, it’s the entire mission.”

Ivison said he and his team of Dirt Boys have seen concrete ruptures before, but never of this magnitude, despite his 25-year military career.

“The [Dirt Boys] were excited to make this repair,” he said. “The RADR in a real-world application, and to my understanding this is the first time we’ve used this material to make a repair of that size.”

The team moved 26 two-ton bags of concrete to complete the repair. 

“My team can accomplish anything,” Ivison said. “We put the final touches and put the paint on it and it looks like we were never there. The stripes are on it and planes are taxiing on it today.”