SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 13, 2017 — A team of 322nd Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron airmen spanning six specialties has taken on an extensive runway repair project to protect aircraft from potential foreign object damage — known on flight lines as FOD.
“We had a lot of damaged concrete which could affect the aircraft,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Larson, a pavement equipment construction operator. “That’s a big part of our job out here on the runway — to reduce FOD. We’re repairing the runway to make it suitable for the aircraft.”
The runway gets heavy use by coalition partners flying missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“This airfield has been used heavily lately, as we’ve been flying a lot of sorties giving ISIS a little bit of trouble and keeping them up at night, so we need this airfield in order to sustain this operation,” added Larson, a North Dakota Air National Guardsman. “The C-17s, C-130s, F-15s, F-16s and our coalition partners are flying hot and heavy out of this airfield.”
The project is not an easy one, because the airmen can only lay the concrete first thing in the morning, due to resources and weather, so they do a little bit each day. The project has been going on for two weeks, and the team has completed much of the current airfield.
“We laid 900 to 1,000 yards of concrete, repaired 60 dilapidated slabs, and over 425 spalls,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Laidlaw, superintendent of heavy equipment repair. The project calls for a lot of labor and a specific skill set that wasn’t readily available in numbers, he noted.
The 332nd ECES doesn’t have many heavy equipment operators, so Laidlaw built his team from available resources, using plumbers, heating ventilation and air conditioning technicians and power production technicians to accomplish the sizeable task and complete the mission.
“We’re a conglomerate of active duty and National Guardsmen working together on this project,” Laidlaw said. “Due to a lack of ‘dirt boys’ on this jobsite, we have HVAC, power pro, plumbers, you name it. We came together as a team and trained together as a team, and we’re completing this together as one.”
“We blended together,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erin Eagleson, a quality control technician from Minot, North Dakota. “It’s great — you don’t realize if someone is active duty or guard or from one unit to another unit.”
Before the team could start laying the concrete, the airmen had to test the material for fluidity, workability and strength.
“We performed slump tests and made concrete cylinders to test the [pounds per square inch] of the concrete,” Eagleson said. “We do this to measure the moisture content in the concrete. … The more water in your concrete, the higher your slump number will be.”
Eagleson tests two samples from each truck to ensure quality. She’s the quality control expert and ensures the concrete will be strong enough.
“We test a cylinder at seven days and at 28 days,” she said. “This gives us the strength of the concrete, and it should be at 50 percent at seven days, and at 28 days, it should be measuring at 6,000 psi, which would be a 100 percent.”
There’s a bit of pride in every member of the team as they strive to do their part. “It means a lot to everyone to make sure we get these planes back in the air,” Laidlaw said.