Building the road to success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
 The sound of machinery echoes across the base as the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron dirt boys are hard at work. Their muddy hands serve as badges of honor, measuring the intense, rigorous efforts needed to ensure the roads are serviceable for Whiteman's mission. Hard work, dedication and a steadfast attitude are the tools needed to be a Whiteman dirt boy.

Dirt boys, like construction workers, deal with ground and pavement operations comprising the airfield, runway and installation roads.

"It's important to maintain and ensure there are no defects on the airfields and runways," said Staff Sgt. Phillip Williams, 509th CES pavements and equipment supervisor. "Defects in concrete, such as spalls (holes), can cause harm to the aircraft's fragile exterior, which may lead to millions of dollars' worth of damage."

If Airfield Management is driving around and sees a spall on the flightline, they will do a sound check. A sound check entails using a rod to hit the pavement. If they hear a loud thud, this indicates a defect within the concrete. They then probe the area 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. Once we find the marked area, we jackhammer it out," Williams said. "Depending on severity, we will jackhammer 6-12 inches. If we go down 6 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 taxiway to be aircraft ready again, with the longest repair time being about a week.

During the winter, the ground and pavements shop clears snow on the flightline using snow brooms, plows and blowers. The amount of snow on the ground determines which tool they use.

The ground and pavement shop puts ice slice on the streets, a sandy material used to melt snow and create traction on the roads for vehicles.

There are multiple hazards when working in construction. The hazards consist of falls, de-gloving, head injuries and many more. Personal protective equipment, sound decision making and attention to detail is essential when handling machinery and vehicles during operation.

Aside from the hazards, the job has its rewards and comforts when the end result is produced: mission success.

"The most rewarding part for this job is seeing aircraft leave the ground," said Airman 1st Class Melvin Stoudemire, 509th CES pavements and equipment apprentice. "They can't leave the ground if we aren't doing our job-- maintaining the roads."