Airmen Repair Runway in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- 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.

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 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 Airfield’s main runway back to full operational capability,” said Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Ion, a 455 ECES project NCO in charge, who is deployed from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minnesota.

“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 Maj. Ryan Kaspari, a 455th ECES operations chief who’s deployed from the 148th FW.

Planning for the runway repairs was very detailed, officials said. Leaders 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 Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gilbert, the 455th ECES chief enlisted manager, who deployed from the Air National Guard 142nd FW, Portland, Ore.

“The creativity and ingenuity of our Airmen played a crucial role in the completion of the assignment,” Gilbert said.

Bagram Airfield 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-130H Compass Call, HH-60G Pave Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1B Predator, MC-12W and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

According to Lt. Col. Jason Lay, the 455 ECES commander, by the end of the project the Airmen were producing higher levels of proficiency and productivity.

“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.”

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