509th CES prepares snow removal equipment for winter

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
It's that time of year again. Trees are engulfed with golden leaves or bald limbs. Winds are getting colder causing stinging-rosey cheeks. These signs foreshadow the coming Midwest winter.

The 509th Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment shop has been preparing equipment to remove snow when it blankets Whiteman's streets and airfield.

The shop has 21 pavement and construction equipment operators, 29 augmentees of the 509th CES and nine ground equipment technicians, who can be called in to remove the white dust. Depending on the severity and amount of snow, the shop can split into two shifts, each working 12 hour days, said Sergeant Denne.

"We've already checked our snow equipment and ordered all the necessary replacement parts, such as broom bristles and blades, needed to clear the snow," said Tech. Sgt. Fred Denne, 509th CES pavements and equipment shop NCO in charge. "Having the proper equipment ready at a moment's notice is important with our job because the Air Force Global Strike Command's mission can't continue without the airfield being clear."

Clearing the flight-line for a variety of aircraft requires the use of heavy equipment, heavy being the key word. An 18-foot-wide snow broom, 20-foot-wide plow and 54,000-pound roll-over plow allow the airfield to be cleared in a timely manner, Sergeant Denne said.

"The Airmen and civilians maintaining the mission also need to be able to get to the airfield, so the streets are also important," he said. "It's a huge safety concern when you have people driving on ice and snow packed streets."

Dump trucks and pick-up trucks with plows and sanders clear the streets and parking lots.

Equipment isn't enough to keep Whiteman's airfield and streets cleared. Potassium acetate and sodium formate are snow melting chemicals used on the airfield. They have a lower corrosive reaction, compared to the sand and sodium used in melting snow on streets and parking lots.

The last winter season brought 36 inches of snow, well above the winter average of 26.

"Our guys worked 39 straight days of 12 hour shifts during last year's winter," he said. "The mission can't continue if snow covers the flight line, so we work hard to ensure it's clear for take-off."

Removing snow is easier with the help of the community, said Sergeant Denne. The 509th CES pavements and equipment shop asks the Whiteman family to do a few small favors to ensure snow removal is done efficiently.

- People who live or work on base and drive vehicles should not park on the streets when snow is in the forecast.

- Yield to snow removal equipment. Heavy machinery requires a lot of power to accelerate, if they are allowed to continue at a constant speed, snow removal procedures run smoothly.

- The shop only sands intersections and sharp corners, so ALL base personnel should be cautious while driving through ice or snow-packed roads.

In addition, the 509th Bomb Wing ground safety office recommends winter safety tips on local driving conditions and snow removal tips for the upcoming winter season.

"If you are driving slowly on U.S. Highway 50 during adverse weather, stay in the right lane," said Max Lafferty, 509th BW ground safety intern. "Driving extremely slow in the left lane actually increases risk of accidents."

Don't make abrupt steering or braking movements, look down the road to be aware of upcoming situations, watch for black ice and deer, run on the powdery portion of the roadway and avoid using your cell phone during adverse weather, Mr. Lafferty added as local driving condition tips.

"As for snow removal; avoid strenuous shoveling activity, warm-up before shoveling or chipping at ice, bend your knees and be weary of slippery conditions," Mr. Lafferty concluded.