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NEWS | Oct. 6, 2015

Taking it to the dirt: 35th CES establishes CATM groundwork

By Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Although renowned for their snow-clearing triumphs in the winter, the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and construction equipment flight have made their mark in the summer by completing the first step in building a new Combat Arms Training and Maintenance facility.

To begin the range's new training addition, pavement and construction equipment Airmen, better known as "Dirt Boys," arrived in the woods of Draughon Range Aug. 20 with chain saws and front-end loaders to take down trees, bring dirt and rocks in, and prepare the location for paving.

"We are creating a parking lot tied into the new shooting range," said Staff Sgt. Kellen Wilson, 35th CES pavement and construction equipment craftsman. "Our primary job right now is to clear the area and prepare it for the contractors who come in to continue it."

Draughon Range is a location 10 miles north of Misawa Air Base, Japan, where pilots, explosive ordnance disposal and survival, and evasion, resistance and escape Airmen train.

"The primary objective of the project is so that CATM annual training can happen more throughout the year," Wilson said. "This one will be larger than the one at Misawa AB, so it can hold more people."

This is the first large-scale project many of the Dirt Boys have taken part in, encompassing approximately 81,000 square feet of land.

"In day-to-day operations, we'll normally do base maintenance like pour concrete or take out a bush on base," said Airman Jeffrey Waldron, 35th CES pavement and construction equipment apprentice. "For this one, we're taking out trees and clearing a site like a little demolition."

Wilson described their yearly schedule as handling snow in the winter and fixing what was messed up in the winter during the summer, which leaves little opportunity to showcase and practice with their equipment.

In order to prepare for large-scale projects, the pavement and construction equipment flight conduct monthly training days to gain experience with their equipment.

"Although we'll do certain tasks for training, we don't get to come out here and actually knock down trees," Waldron said. "I've learned a lot working on this project."

After Oct. 1, the Dirt Boys' efforts will halt until 2016, when they will establish a few concrete pads for the shooting range. The completion of the new CATM facility is slated for late 2016.

"This is the first stage to a multiple-step process," Waldron said. "There's going to be a lot of work after this."

To provide everyone with experience with different equipment, the Airmen rotated between working on daily duties and the CATM site.

"This is my third or fourth time coming out," Waldron said. "More experienced Airmen give us tips on how to do everything."

The hard to come by tasks provide mentorship and learning opportunities throughout all ranks of the pavement and construction equipment flight.

"Coming out here we get to work on a project of a larger scope, rather than just learning from a book," Wilson said. "This is one of the few jobs where you actually get to see the progress of your work from beginning to end."

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