509th CES readies equipment for snow and ice removal

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- In late September, amid inspections and exercises, football season and school functions, thoughts of snow shovels are months away. After all, the leaves are just beginning to fall. 

Tech. Sgt. Fredrick Denne, Heavy Equipment Operator, 509th Bomb Wing Civil Engineer Squadron, on the other hand, is preparing a team of both Airmen and civilians for the first wintry blast. 

"Snow removal involves many different squadrons around the base," Sergeant Denne said. 

Coordination between all of the involved squadrons can become quite the task, considering Whiteman's operations tempo. Sergeant Denne considers it one of the most challenging aspects of preparing for snowfall. 

"Not to mention (coordination with) the multiple flights within CES who support us with augmentees," he said. 

Whiteman's snow removal team consists of two, 25 - person teams tapped from the entire CES's military and civilian work force. True to Whiteman tradition, excellence abounds, as the team has won the Air Combat Command Balchen/Post Award for snow and ice removal excellence three out of the last four years, and the Air Force-wide Blachen/Post award for the 2007-2008 snow season. 

As one could imagine, shoveling snow from the Base Exchange parking lot and preparing runway 19 for a multi-million dollar B-2 arrival, are two different jobs, each requiring specialty equipment. 

"On the flight line, we use the larger equipment, such as 20 foot-wide plows, 18-foot-wide snow broom and the 54,000-pound roll-over plow," Sergeant Denne said. 

"Equipment alone will not accomplish the job," he continued.  "Various ice melt chemicals are use to aid the equipment in removing ice build up. We use different products for flight line and streets.  These chemicals are specially formulated to have low corrosive properties that make them safe for use around our aircraft and greatly reduce the wear to vehicles.  Salt is not used at Whiteman for snow removal operations because of its high corrosive properties," Sergeant Denne said. 

Streets and parking lots, while still important, don't require the specialized equipment that the flight line does.  They are cleared by blade-fitted dump trucks and pickups. 

Those who have experienced a Whiteman winter know, snow and ice storms in Missouri range from an enjoyable snowman-making inch or two, to crystalline coatings of clear ice that disrupt normal life for weeks at a time. 

"The largest amount of snow in recent records was on 30 November 2006 in which we received 15.4 inches of snow," Sergeant Denne said. 

"This happened during a Joint Nuclear Surety Inspection, and our team was awarded the Inspector General's coin for excellence," he said. 

The highest seasonal snowfall on record occurred in the 1977-1978 season, in which 44.6 inches of snow were recorded at Whiteman. 

Although snow and ice removal is a time consuming and complex task, it also has its rewards. 

"Knowing that because of our efforts the aircraft can take off and pilots are able to complete their missions to get bombs on target is very rewarding," said Sergeant Denne. "In addition, we are keeping the streets safe for our families and friends and the base populace."