By Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron Dirt Boyz fill concrete into an emptied slab at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. The Airmen fixed five slabs of concrete, a project totaling $170,000 and two months of work. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
Staff Sgt. Cameron Kruell, assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron Dirt Boyz, shovels wet concrete out of a truck at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. The team keeps the concrete in motion to prevent it from settling improperly. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ewing, 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and equipment craftsman, operates construction equipment on Barksdale Air Force Base, July 18, 2017. Ewing removed aged concrete from the airfield as part of the replacement and reconstruction process on the airfield. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
Staff Sgt. Jon Martinez, assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron Dirt Boyz, stands in wet concrete as he evens it out at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. Martinez wore rubber overalls in order to keep the concrete’s corrosive chemicals off his skin. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
Staff Sgt. Zachary Aronin, assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron Dirt Boyz, use rakes and shovels to spread wet concrete throughout a slab being fixed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. The concrete replaced was over 35 years old. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
The 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron Dirt Boyz repair and reconstruct base infrastructure around Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. They completed a five-slab concrete reconstruction on the airfield. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
Dirt Boyz from the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron wait for a concrete truck delivery at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 18, 2017. Each concrete truck contains approximately 10 yards worth of concrete. The open slab needed 106 yards. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Sydney Bennett)
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 weighs 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.