GWANGJU AIR BASE, South Korea -- Clouds of dust filled the air as an excavator with a jackhammer extension tore through a damaged runway at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea.
Approximately forty U.S. Airmen from the 773d Civil Engineer Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and 40 Republic of Korea Airmen from Gwangju trained together to learn a new runway repair process for wartime contingencies Nov. 6 through 10.
“It takes a lot of people to make this happen,” said Col. Kevin Mantovani, 7th Air Force engineering division chief. “Our philosophy is every Airman should be able to participate in base recovery. Whether you’re a defender on the perimeter or an engineer responding to runway damage, the R.O.K. and the U.S. forces work together. The alliance has never been stronger.”
The civil engineers teamed up to complete an airfield damage repair exercise on a mock airstrip with multiple craters, testing the team's ability to restore a runway to operational status as quickly as possible.
The new process, created by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, is called Rapid Airfield Damage Repair. It resembles a manufacturing line and focuses on repairing more damage than the old process, focusing on many small craters, each three to five feet in diameter.
The old method addressed repairing large craters one at a time, where the new makes use of simultaneous activities with different pieces of heavy machinery in an assembly-line approach. Troops can now repair hundreds of craters over the course of several hours.
“With the increased threat of our adversaries, learning this new airfield repair method is very important for generating sorties after an attack,” said R.O.K. Air Force Lt. Col. Injae Hwang, Air Force Operation and Command. “It means a lot to us in terms of our national defense and strengthening our alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea.”
The old process was performed solely by heavy equipment operators, but the new process requires more personnel. Six additional CE career fields are taking part in the new system. The goal is to familiarize the team with the process and equipment, which involves excavators, front-end loaders, compact track loaders and metric mixers.
The process makes use of rapid-setting concrete which enables vehicles to pass over it after one hour; after two hours of cure time, it can support a fully-loaded C-5 Galaxy.
Working as a team, the engineers labored to excavate and fill the craters and reestablish the airfield.
The team will also practice employing this process even during inclement weather.
“Our ability to rapidly recover the airfield under any threat ensures our ability to operate in a contested environment,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyle Boomer, 7th Air Force Logistics Readiness chief of mission assurance. “We really have to be ready for any threat at any time, and this allows us to launch aircraft and take the fight immediately back to the enemy.”
During the exercise, communication was critical and one of the biggest challenges when military personnel from different countries come together for a common goal can be the language barrier. Translators moved among the teams to ensure everyone was on the same page.
Training like this provides an environment in which personnel assigned to the Pacific theater can work together and share experiences, several Airmen noted.
“This is a very cool opportunity,” said R.O.K. Air Force Sgt. Junbom Kim, communications specialist. “It has allowed our countries to exchange many things, not just official practices and construction methods. We can informally exchange ideas and opinions. It’s a good opportunity to clean up any misunderstandings that we may have had before and learn about each other’s culture.”
Multinational partnerships are force multipliers for good around the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and play a critical role in meeting global challenges. It is a fundamental priority of the U.S. to continue enhancing alliances and building partnerships so all nations benefit from an environment that safeguards security, stability, prosperity and peace for the entire region.