Paving roads with diligence

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The pavement designed for vehicle transportation, fences used to safeguard the installation's perimeter, and signs for directions are all fruits of the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) pavement and equipment shop's hard work. Rain, sleet or snow, they are constantly grinding to ensure the installation is maintained in accordance with U.S. Air Force standards.

"Dirt boys" are responsible for handling installation ground and pavement operations concerning the airfield, runway and roads.

"It's imperative we keep the airfields and runways free of defects," said Senior Airman Kalen Dozzi, 509th CES pavements and equipment journeyman. "Defects, such as spalls (holes), can cause harm to the aircraft's exterior, which may lead to serious damage."

If Airfield Management identifies a spall on the flightline, they will perform a sound check. This involves using a rod to hit the pavement. If they hear a loud thud, this indicates a defect within the concrete. Next, they expand their probing until a metallic sound result. The area is then spray painted and the ground and pavements shop is notified of the defect.

"We gather our equipment and head to the marked area," said Airman 1st Class Chaiya Thamvongsa, 509th CES pavements and equipment journeyman. "Once we find the marked area, we jackhammer it out. Depending on severity, we will jackhammer 6-12 inches. If we go down six inches and there is still brown pavement, this means the spall is going through the pavement. This indicates a high level of severity and requires further jackhammering."

The severity of the spall determines how long it takes for the area to be aircraft ready again, with the repair time varying upon the amount of maintenance.

After the pavement and equipment shop removes the old concrete, they will put down some base course (a layer of material in an asphalt roadway) and form the new concrete.

But it's not just the flightline that receives this attention.

509th Security Forces Squadron members perform periodic checks around the perimeter fence to ensure it's intact. If they discover a breach or a defect, they will alert the pavement and equipment shop to repair the damage.

"We will also maintain, repair or build perimeter fences, or security fences, with three strand barbed wire to keep wildlife from entering the installation," said Thamvongsa. Occasionally, the fences will be damaged by floods that occur from heavy rain. We will remain on duty until the fence is repaired."

As the seasons change, so does the nature of the ground and pavement shop's workload. During the winter, they clear snow on the flightline using snow brooms, plows and blowers.

They also spread de-icer on the streets, which is a sandy material used to melt snow and create traction for vehicles.

"Dirt boys" have a big job to do, but some wouldn't have it any other way.

"I feel like a big kid doing this job," said Thamvongsa. "I get to play with big equipment, operate forklifts, destroy and reconstruct stuff. It's quite a job to have, and I'm glad I am doing this for my country."