Face of Defense: Airmen Repair Runway in Afghanistan
By Courtesy Story
455th Air Expeditionary Wing
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, June 20, 2014 Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Squadron completed flightline repairs to the main runway here June 9.
Air Force Maj. Ryan Kaspari, left, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron operations chief; and Master Sgt. Jeremiah Graves, 455th ECES noncommissioned officer in charge of operations, conduct repairs on the main runway at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, June 9, 2014. Kaspari and Graves are natives of Duluth, Minn., and are deployed from the Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Airmen repaired four sets of Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene panels. The panels are located underneath aircraft arresting system cables on the airfield. The panels stop the arresting cables from cutting grooves in the underlying pavement, which prevents prolonged runway closures and expensive repairs in the future.
Large bolts hold down each poly panel. The repairs included testing each of the 992 bolts, and extracting any that failed to meet a specified torque requirement. Among the 992 bolts, 502 failed the test and were replaced.
“It was the epitome of teamwork and self-sacrifice that returned Bagram’s main runway back to full operational capability,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Ion, 455 ECES project non-commissioned officer in charge, and a native of Duluth, Minnesota, who is deployed from the 148th Fighter Wing at Duluth.
“The barrier arresting kits have been repaired providing another fail-safe for landing aircraft,” Ion added. “Each airman involved with the project performed above and beyond our expectations.”
The project, he said, was scheduled to be conducted throughout June but was completed early.
“We were permitted 16 outages throughout the month to complete the project. I estimated it would require 12 days, but we finished in eight,” said Air Force Maj. Ryan Kaspari, 455th ECES operations chief, a native of Duluth who’s deployed from the 148th FW.
Planning for the runway repairs was very detailed. Leadership organized airmen into specific groups to complete different tasks. Testing and training were conducted, while concept drills were rehearsed and materials gathered. Experts spent many hours studying manufacturer’s instructions and conversing with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.
“This project was the most well-planned and well-executed project I’ve ever been a part of,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gilbert, 455th ECES chief enlisted manager, a native of Portland, Oregon, deployed from the Air National Guard 142nd FW at Portland.
“The creativity and ingenuity of our airmen played a crucial role in the completion of the assignment,” Gilbert said.
According to Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Lay, 455 ECES commander, a native of Portland, Oregon, by the end of the project the airmen were producing higher levels of proficiency and productivity.
Bagram is the busiest military airfield in Afghanistan. It serves as the hub for several aircraft, to include the C-130 J Super Hercules, A-10 Thunderbolt II, EC-130 Compass Call, HH-60 Pave Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1B Predator, MC-12W Liberty and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“Our airmen understood the importance of this mission,” said Lay, who is deployed from the 142nd FW. “This project will likely be the most important task our airmen complete while deployed. It is unlikely another project will have as much impact on the mission as this one.
“Because of the dedication and effort of every airman from both squadrons,” he continued, “we are handing over a completely operational airfield several days, even weeks, ahead of schedule.”