JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
An engine revs as tires roll over the silky black top steadily reaching 40, 50, 60 miles per hour, then, all of a sudden, the front tire sinks into a pothole. The chassis slams against the asphalt, the steering wheel jerks to the side as the sound of screeching tires echo—the car has lost control.
If a pilot in control of a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor were to find such a pothole as it screamed down the runway, the outcome could be catastrophic.
To prevent such an incident, the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron is tasked with the up keep of the oldest active U.S. Air Force airfield, which supports 5th generation weapons systems.
“Our main focus is maintaining the runway,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Landis, 633rd CES pavements and construction journeyman. “We do this through the removal of foreign-object debris, snow removal and the correction of pavement defects.”
When it comes to FOD removal, attention to detail is key. One missed fragment could mean millions of dollars in repairs, and hundreds of man hours taken away from direct mission success.
During the winter months, snow on the runway means jets can’t fly and that translates to pilots losing valuable flight hours for training and mission readiness.
Cracks in the sidewalks that connect to the runway also pose hazards to flightline and emergency service Airmen.
“The Pavements and Equipment shop uses every opportunity to practice expedient pavement repairs that the team would do during a real-world emergency pavement repair,” said Master Sgt. Rodger Jones, 633rd CES pavements and equipment NCO in charge. “Our primary mission is to ensure the aircraft have a runway that remains free from foreign-object debris and pavement defects. We are able to successfully complete our mission since we continuously find ways to improve our skill-set through training opportunities.”
Every moment is taken as an opportunity to train. The 633rd CES pavements and equipment Airmen polish their skillsets to the point that tools are just an extension of their body. They learn the materials, tools and procedures and are ready to build in any situation.
“Sometimes we’re maintaining a base that is already established, but sometimes we have to build a runway because there is nothing there,” said Landis. “So we go there and construct everything, from the runway to the actual facilities, tent cities and anything required for a base to operate.”
At Joint Base Langley-Eustis, the 633rd CES designs, constructs, maintains, repairs and protects 648 facilities and 3,644 acres. Abroad, they are the forerunners who announce the coming of airspace control as they lead the way in support of the mission.