BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Barksdale Air Force Base has had the same airfield concrete for over 35 years, but concrete does not last forever. It starts to deteriorate with water flow and heavy weight, two things Barksdale has in abundance. Louisiana faces heavy seasonal rains and one B-52 Stratofortress can weigh anywhere between 185,000 and 488,000 pounds as it taxis down the flightline.
The Dirt Boyz of Barksdale are fixing the concrete on the airfield, a job packed with difficulties and rewards.
The pavement and equipment craftsmen know that their job is important to the mission of the B-52 Stratofortress.
The Dirt Boyz fixed five slabs of broken concrete because they were sunken down and cracked. Tiny rocks from the broken concrete are known as foreign object debris, or FOD. FOD is very dangerous on a flightline as a B-52 engine can easily suck up a small rock and ruin a whole engine, this would cause a setback in the 2nd Bomb Wing mission.
The Dirt Boyz are excited as it is their biggest project in recent years.
“I feel pride being able to see the impact we make,” said Staff Sgt. Cameron Kruell, 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator. “It’s great being able to look out and see that we did quality craftsmanship.”
When the Dirt Boyz deploy, they work on massive projects, but here at home they are limited in what they can do.
“Structures shop painted temporary taxiway lines but ultimately the Dirt Boyz alone did this project” said Tech. Sgt. David Torres, 2nd CES heavy equipment operator and project supervisor.
Great pride is a product of difficult and often messy work.
The Dirt Boyz have many different factors that can make or break a busy and productive day. Weather is a key factor. A single afternoon of rain can push back the project anywhere from a few hours to several days.
“Once we break the concrete we essentially have open soil and when it rains it fills up that hole with water. So our biggest drawback is from the amount of rain we get,” said Kruell.
Another difficulty this shop faces is man power. With almost half the shop deployed on any given day it can be difficult for supervision to schedule tasks.
“It’s a really good day when we have all our men, civilian or Airmen,” said Torres. “There is also a lot of moving parts, a lot of steps we have to do before we can go to the next step for this repair to be done correctly. We definitely need all our guys.”
Torres said that they’ve still been able to accomplish tasks with as few as two or three personnel.
Dealing with heavy equipment, large projects and having no control over the weather does not make for an easy job, but it can be rewarding.
Through the ranks, Airmen learn their job, they live it, and at the end of their career they teach the information they learned to new Airmen. A rewarding aspect of the Dirt Boyz job is passing on information to younger generations and developing them as Airmen.
“The toughest part for me is transitioning from being the worker to the supervisor,” said Kruell. “I had to realize that I need to train the people below me so they can be skilled if I am not around, so I can know that they’re competent enough to the job on their own.”
“The most rewarding part of this job is teaching these young guys the proper steps to making these types of critical repairs, especially to the air field, which directly impacts the mission,” said Torres.
The Dirt Boyz’ dedication and pride in their craft will help make Barksdale’s airfield last far into the future, ensuring the B-52 can continue to deter our adversaries and assure our allies.