News: Prime BEEF Airmen construct new ‘pad’ for deployed helos
Story by Senior Airman Sandra Welch
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – As the military redistribute forces and equipment from forward operating bases in Afghanistan, the demand for a larger helicopter landing zone here is an necessity. Airman of the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group’s, 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Emergency Force Squadron brought the project to life overcoming a few obstacles in the process.
“We are constructing a new helicopter landing zone. Sometimes when you are transitioning and moving forces around you need to do construction to accept those forces from the other forward operating bases so they can find a home at least temporarily until they transition elsewhere,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christoff Gaub, 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron commander.
The Prime BEEF team, forward deployed from Al Udied Air Base, Qatar, had to create a drainage system to keep the 6-acre area from flooding during the rainy season.
“Drainage pipes were installed to help maintain the structural integrity of the helicopter landing pad,” said U. S. Air Force Staff Sgt. William Thomas, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, currently assigned to the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron. “The water runs off the main pad, into drainage pipes and then filters off into retention ponds.”
Also, the 15-man team excavated 7,000 cubic meters of fill material to create a landing pad to accommodate numerous helicopter parking spaces.
“Some of the challenges we face as a team are acquiring the needed amounts of various equipment. For a large scale project, such as the Hickory Landing Zone, we usually need to borrow a few pieces of heavy equipment such as dump trucks, bulldozers and graders,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Orlin Rohde, an Ellisburg, New York native, currently assigned to the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron.
Due to an increase in workload this team of heavy equipment operators had to acquire more civil engineer personnel to meet mission demands throughout the area of operation.
“One of the biggest hurdles we have overcome is training our own engineers. We only have a limited number of actual trained heavy equipment operators, so we have to train our plumbers, electricians, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and structure craftsman on our equipment,” said Rohde. “They do great work helping us out and these types of projects wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t come together as a team.”
Leadership wouldn’t think they could meet this task if they weren’t confident in their training.
“In Afghanistan we get to have a bigger impact on the whole AOR, and we get to support our fellow armed forces: Army, Navy, Marines, and coalition partners. We are trained combat engineers which enables us to operate in more areas that the traditional engineers cannot,” said Rohde.
For some Airmen this isn’t just a job, it’s a dream that has come to fruition.
“It is truly a proud moment when you get tasked to turn a 6-acre field into a fully operational helicopter landing zone, able to support numerous aircraft with a deadline of three months,” said Rohde.
“Operating heavy equipment is every boy’s dream, it’s the best job in the Air Force!”