JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Following the Nov. 30 earthquakes rocking the Anchorage, Alaska area, team Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) immediately leapt into action evaluating, cleaning up and repairing damages sustained.
Despite the upheaval of earth, and magnitude of damages a natural disaster causes, the installation has continually maintained its focus on executing agile combat support to the U.S. Air Forces Pacific region.
An example of this continued action can be directly found through the award winning, Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s (AFCEC) Airfield Pavement Evaluation (APE) Team who were called upon to evaluate and verify potential non-visible pavement damage at all of JBER’s airfields.
“Our team is one of kind in the Air Force community, we are continually on the road providing support to the operational and engineering communities, despite whatever circumstances they face,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Johnson, AFCEC APE team branch chief. “Our number one priority at JBER is doing non-destructive testing to determine possible subsurface damage. This process helps to verify that the airfields are safe for continued combat support operations following the recent earthquakes.”
During this process, Johnson and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jill Reed, AFCEC APE team superintendent, located out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., brought with them a special heavy falling weight deflectometer, made by Dynatest, to simulate 55,000 pounds of weight hitting the pavement.
“The heavy amount of weight is similar to our large aircraft,” Reed said. “My job is to make sure the equipment is working accurately throughout the evaluation. The data the equipment provides us gives us a way to analyze and measure deflections in the pavement, allowing us to estimate the structural capacity of an area.”
Deflection sensors mounted in the center of the load plate measure the deformation of the pavement in response to the load. A software program is then used to calculate geographical information surveying (GIS) results and provide models to determine, or estimate, location and structural capacity.
Seismic activity is known to cause lateral movement in subsurface areas, it is normal for underground utility pipes to shift or crack, causing soil erosion which can go undetected for some time.
“We know soil erosion can cause voids, or empty space, underneath sections of pavement such as a flightline,” Johnson said. “So we use our mobile Dynatest Control Center we bring with us to make sure these flightlines are as structurally capable as they were before the earthquakes.”
Once a compilation of evaluations is complete, a report is made available to leadership with recommendations. Local teams from the 673d and 773d Civil Engineer Squadrons can then be dispatched to make flightline repairs, if necessary.
“Typically we have five-person teams that operate several different pieces of equipment when we do full evaluations,” Reed said. “If we are called to do non-destructive testing, such as this type of evaluation, two people are all that’s needed.”
The AFCEC APE team is a primary subordinate unit of Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, and although the team is small in number, they are responsible for tracking the status and assessing the lifecycle repair times for 2.2 billion square feet of pavement valued at more than $20 billion across the Air Force.