OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
With a crew of only 14 civilians, the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron’s pavement and equipment section is responsible for repairs to base roads, parking lots and the runway, while also completing side jobs like demolishing the Capehart pool, responding to emergency water line breaks, fixing the perimeter fence and removing snow in the winter months.
“We are undermanned compared to other bases,” said John Golden, 55th CES Heavy Construction superintendent. “We were cut to the bone when we went through the Most Efficient Organization program and we haven’t got anyone back from that operation.”
But that isn’t all they are up against. On top of the lack of people, they have also been dealing with budget constraints, said Richard Durr, 55th CES’s pavement and equipment supervisor.
Furthermore, safety becomes an issue when drivers fail to slow to the appropriate speed limit.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than 40,000 people are injured each year as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones to include the construction workers, with speed playing a significant role.
“We do the best possible job we can to minimize disruption to traffic,” Durr said. “We have the option of closing roads, which is safer for our workers. So we are taking some risk in trying to do this with as little disruption as possible.”
Despite all they are up against, they still manage to do a significant amount of work, even if it means working weekends, holidays and through the night.
In April they closed the runway for three days over a weekend and repaired 110 identified spalls in 90 repair areas using 587 bags of hand-mixed rapid set repair material weighing in at 17,220 lbs.
They have four more similar runway repair jobs scheduled for this year.
Another never-ending task is repairing pot holes. The harsh Nebraska weather causes moisture to become trapped under the concrete and then it freezes. When it finally thaws and expands, it blows the concrete apart.
With Offutt occupying more than 4,000 acres of land, the task can be daunting.
“We have pothole repair going on constantly,” Golden said. “It happens around the clock, day-in and day-out. But when you have a crew of only 12 people, it is hard to see.”
Each hole takes about an hour to fill and it wasn’t too long ago that the repairs were only lasting a year. However the office was able to purchase an asphalt reclaimer this year allowing them to work with hot asphalt.
“We are trying to do a more permanent repair compared to what we did in the past,” Durr said. “We should get four to five years out of them now or until we are able to do a major road repair.”
Also on their to-do list is fixing the sidewalk in front of building 49. Each job they are able to do on their own saves the Air Force money.
“By tearing down the Capehart pool instead of contracting it out, we saved the base around $150,000.” Darr said.
The crew is constantly working to improve the base and their methods of repair in order to better their results and streamline their processes.
“They are a highly effective crew for their size, accomplishing day-to-day tasks with superior results,” Golden said. “Unfortunately, it’s a thankless job.”
The crew tends to hear feedback when something needs to be done, not after it is complete, said Golden. But that is just part of the job for them.
“They are a rough crew, but they are tough,” Durr added.