AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United arab Emirates --
The runway is vital to mission operations at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. It enables various aircraft to take-off and land in support of a host of missions. Through time and exposure from multiple aircraft landings, cracks and holes will appear on the runway.
In order to keep this runway operational, the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron pavement equipment shop performs rapid runway repairs.
“The overall runway health is very important to the Air Force mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Steinberg, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron pavement equipment journeyman. “From the fighter jets putting bombs on targets, to heavy aircraft supporting re-supply sorties, our job is to provide a safe runway. Our aircraft have a high tempo which requires us to inspect and repair the constant stress applied to the airfield. We take pride in performing our small part in the Air Force mission.”
One of the biggest threats to aircraft is foreign object damage. FOD occurs when small objects enters the aircraft’s engine during start up. By performing repairs, these ECES specialists, referred to as “Dirt Boyz,” prevent aircraft mishaps enabling combat operations.
“The Dirt Boys provide support to both DoD and Host Nation missions by consistently maintaining and repairing ADABs 3,800 acre airfield,” said Senior Master Sgt. Katherine Hardy, 380th Expeditionary Operational Support Squadron airfield manager. “We have been successful in closing Runway 31L seven times during this rotation, allowing the Dirt Boys to repair 21 spalls, which aided in 8,036 aircraft operations. Host nation Civil Engineering has observed the skills possessed by the current airfield pavements team and has requested training to learn rapid airfield damage repair techniques to enable the capability to effectively maintain their airfield surfaces the future.”
“Our job allows us to positively support the mission as it unfolds,” said Steinberg. “I love being part of a team that confronts challenges directly. We're able to precisely and expediently provide multi-levels of support.”
The repair team generally consists of five members in the positions of operating the water truck, airfield sweeper, and the actual pavement restoration. They begin by doing an airfield inspection to find any possible defects and determine the most critical areas to be fixed first.
“Our team is ready to respond at a moment's notice,” said Steinberg. “We currently are repairing 10 - 15 spalls per month.
When we get out there, the pavement is cut around the defect and then the area is jackhammered,” added Steinberg. “After that, the hole is cleaned out, the rapid-set material is mixed and placed in the hole. The material is leveled and smoothed out inside of the hole. Once it sets up, we may have to route joints and seal them, depending on spall location. Then the area is cleaned up and good to go.”
The team is another key component to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, enabling the mission of delivering decisive airpower and standing ready to defend the region against any adversary.
“I want to recognize and say thank you to our airfield repair team,” added Steinberg. “They are highly motivated and always give 100 percent. Their efforts produce a safe working environment, and a professional product of airfield repair excellence.”