509th CES Dirt Boyz: clearing a holiday path

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Picture Christmas morning - children are enjoying their gifts, friends and family are enjoying each other's company, and Mother Nature has provided a snowy winter wonderland.

For many Team Whiteman members this is a cozy Christmas morning, but for the members of the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron's "Dirt Boyz" shop, it means time to get to work.

As others continue their holiday adventures, the Dirt Boyz remain alert, watching the weather and preparing for a 48-hour snow watch.

"Normally we work just day shifts," said Staff Sgt. Adam Mellen, 509th CES heavy equipment operator. "But when we get put on 48-hour snow watch, we bring in four to five guys for a night shift to be prepared for the snow."

Since Mother Nature's schedule can change without notice, planning holiday events and time with family can be difficult for members of the shop.

"We can't make plans right away like some people," said Senior Airman Mike Carle, 509th CES heavy equipment operator. "And the plans we do make have to be within the local area because we need to respond to a recall within 30 minutes."

Along with 48-hour snow watch, Dirt Boyz members are also on-call for emergencies, including damage to the outer fences or pipes bursting.

"There [are] usually two people, a primary and an alternate, on call at all times," Mellen said. "We have to be ready in case anything happens during the holidays. With snow removal being an integral part of our mission success here at Whiteman, we only allow three or four Dirt Boyz to take leave at a time, and snow removal augmentees have to clear their leave with the snow removal NCOIC."

Being away from home and family is never easy, particularly during the holiday season, but the Dirt Boyz try to make everyone feel at home and part of the family.

"We are a big family here, so we look out for each other during this season," Carle said. "Most of us won't have the opportunity to go home to our families for the holidays, but everybody in our shop will invite you over or make sure you have plans so that you get the family atmosphere."

The family atmosphere produced by the Dirt Boyz keeps the shop close together and makes it easier for Airmen who are away from their families during the holidays.

"Most of us NCOs are used to being away or have families of our own," Mellen said. "So it's important for us to make the new Airmen comfortable during these times. It's what my supervisors did for me and it's what I want them to do when they are supervisors one day."

In any event, the Dirt Boyz plan to enjoy whatever downtime they can. They are ready and prepared, and now await Mother Nature.

(Editor's Note: This feature is the final article in our five-part series entitled "Working through the Holidays," highlighting Whiteman Airmen and units who continue to perform the mission throughout the holiday season.)