Whiteman Geobase: On the map

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- While playing around as a child and looking for places to start your next adventure, you may have come across the bright yellow signs planted in the ground telling you not to dig in the immediate vicinity without calling “811” to get clearance, due to the presence of gas lines or other utilities. When you grew older and started learning to drive you may have had a few moments of gratitude for the maps that helped your reach your final location. What you may not have thought about is who contributed to the surveillance and behind-the-scenes work, which helped you safely reach your destinations.

At Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, this function falls to the members of the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron’s (CES) Geobase shop. The Geobase shop is responsible for more than 4,500 acres of land, which encompasses 1,500 facilities and the safety of over 14,000 Team Whiteman members. The team provides nine standard mapping areas, including layout and vicinity maps, airfield operation planning, utility systems mapping and contingency planning.

“Our maps help during exercises for location purposes that range from buffers, to incident location, and more,” said Staff Sgt. Halee Young, a 509th CES Geobase journeyman.

“They are vital for everyday use such as location and territory, mowing areas and restricted location areas,” Young added.

Overseas, these Airman play a vital role in standing up new facilities and doing it the right way. The Geobase shop lays out foundations, levels out the areas for construction and updates the maps after the facility’s construction is completed.

Geobase troops survey the land across the installation to gather coordinates and elevation levels. After they gather this data, they act as an “811” excavator to those looking to begin construction projects on base.

“If a project is starting, they have to fill out a dig permit and bring it to us for a signature,” said Young. “We provide them with data concerning the utilities within the area they are proposing to dig. This way they don’t hit any utility lines, making more work and costing more for the Air Force.”

Not only could hitting a utility line be costly, it could create a dangerous environment from a natural gas leak, a water leak, or interrupted phone and internet connections. This is why it is crucial for Geobase troops to constantly build the most up-to-date layouts.

“We devote ourselves to the mission by providing accurate location data, measurements and support in construction projects around the base,” said Young. “As Colin Powell states, ‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.’ This is the mindset we strive to embody.”