Prime base engineer emergency force (Prime BEEF) is an Air Force headquarters, major command, and base-level program that "organizes civil engineering force teams for worldwide direct and indirect combat support roles" (Air Force Pamphlet 93-12). It assigns civilian employees and military personnel to peacetime real property maintenance and wartime engineering functions. Prime BEEF is made up of 50-, 100-, 150-, and 200-man teams of major command-assigned civil engineering personnel identified by selected skills and designated as Prime BEEF-deployable. The major command then places these selected individuals on mobility status; when called upon collectively, they become the Prime BEEF team. Selected pieces of equipment are also earmarked for deployment status to accompany the deployment team.
All Prime BEEF forces are Combat Support [CS] forces that are generally configured as squadrons and teams. Their mission is to provide CS to the air combat forces which are, or may become, a part of a theater, command, or task force formed for combat operations. These civil-engineering base units are organic at essentially all major CONUS and overseas Air Force bases in order to provide peacetime real-property maintenance capability. This capability is totally integrated into the peacetime force structure and provides the operational commander with the flexibility of employing weapons systems without depending on others. A similar organic civil-engineering capability in the form of Prime BEEF CS forces will accompany deploying flying squadrons when they go to war.
These deploying flying units will have the organic Prime BEEF CS engineering support capable of performing those engineering wartime tasks necessary for sortie generation. Specfic Prime BEEF CS units will be linked to specific flying units. Prime BEEF CS units concentrate primarily in supporting aircraft weapons systems and combat operations. There are two basic Prime BEEF mobile force classifications: large CS squadrons and small specialty CS teams. Prime BEEF CS units have no organic heavy equipment--only toolboxes and small team kits (such as power tools). They require base operating support, and most deploy in 50- or 100-person team increments.
Large-Scale Prime BEEF CS Squadrons
The large CS squadrons provide basic skills to establish base civil engineer (BCE) operations or to accomplish the most critical wartime tasks at locations where additional assistance is required or where none exists. Eight types of large-scale CS squadrons are available in four separate and distinct sizes (200-, 150-, 100-, and 50-person). These types of squadrons are active duty, Air National Guard (ANG), or Air Force Reserve. They are capable of deploying on a 22- to 28-hour notice to support aircraft operations at main operating bases (MOBs), collocated operating bases (COBs), standby bases (SBs), forward operating locations (FOLs), aerial ports of debarkation (APODs), and bare bases (BBs). These squadrons can fully support AM-2 matting, fiberglass matting and concrete slab RRR methods. These squadrons can support a bed-down population of 2,200 to 2,500 personnel. Combinations of the eight types of CS squadrons are used to support theater requirements.
Small Specialty Prime BEEF CS Teams
Small specialty CS teams are comprised of certain skills and numbers, such as fire fighters, construction management, and staff augmentation necessary to fill known requirements. Nine types of teams are available, ranging in size from 3 to 48 persons from all components. The size and composition of all Prime BEEF mobile teams is based on METT-T.
Prime BEEF History
The Lebanon Crisis of 1958, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 demonstrated a need for the capability to respond to worldwide emergencies. Aircraft and support personnel were being deployed without providing runways, water supply, electricity, housing, and other facilities necessary to support them. Civil engineering personnel, who could rapidly respond, were needed to accompany aircraft and to provide basing facilities. The Air Force's answer was the Prime BEEF program.
As the buildup of forces in Southeast Asia began, base civil engineering forces were inundated with construction, operations, and maintenance requirements. Large numbers of USAF strike aircraft were sent to bases where pavement for aircraft parking was at a premium. Aircraft were parked wing tip to wing tip, vulnerable to an accidental explosion or enemy attack. A need for aircraft revetments was dramatically brought home on 15 May 1965 when the explosion of a bomb under the wing of a loaded B-57 aircraft set off a chain reaction of explosions on the parking apron at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam. Forty aircraft were destroyed, 26 Americans killed, and over 60 wounded.
Three 25-man Prime BEEF teams were organized from Air Training Command, Strategic Air Command, and Air Defense Command. Teams were deployed to Tan Son Nhut, Bien Hoa and Da Nang Air Bases (all in South Vietnam) to construct aircraft revetments and complete whatever work that was needed. During their 120-day deployments, the teams constructed over 12,000 linear feet of revetments, parking aprons, and several miles of roads. The revetments paid for themselves in saved aircraft in just the first six months.
Soon other specialized teams were deployed to bases in Vietnam and Thailand to perform short-term construction projects. A Prime BEEF team was sent to Tan Son Nhut to ensure the rapidly growing base had an adequate water supply. Prime BEEF III sent teams to several other bases to build housing. The teams erected "hootches," framed tents, and constructed over 34,000 square feet of support facilities at six bases in South Vietnam.
Prime BEEF teams continued to perform critical repair and construction work in Southeast Asia. Between 1965 and 1972, nearly 2,000 Prime BEEF team members were deployed to Southeast Asia to construct vital petroleum, oil, and lubricant (POL) pipelines and storage facilities; install jet engine exhaust blast deflectors; provide electrical power to buildings; and to erect small buildings.
The Prime BEEF program proved its value in additional situations. Several hundred personnel were deployed to Korea during Operation Combat Fox, following the seizure of the USS Pueblo in 1968. These teams dug wells, laid airfield matting, erected frame buildings, installed aircraft arresting barriers, sandbagged bunkers, and rehabilitated building and utility systems to facilitate the buildup of American forces at Korean air bases.
As the Vietnam War began to wind down, Prime BEEF teams remained in great demand by the Air Force. A number of these teams completed civic action projects in the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (which became the Federated States of Micronesia). In 1969, firefighter, now a part of the Prime BEEF program, were sent to locations around the world to provide fire protection and crash/rescue support. Teams also provided civil engineering support for various research projects. For example, they supported a project of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory testing on Eniwetok Atoll in 1972.
In addition to wartime operations, Prime BEEF teams have responded to many emergency situations. Prime BEEF members have assisted military and civilian communities in recovery form natural disasters including Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
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