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Afghanistan's busiest runway undergoes repairs as mission continues

by Capt. James H. Cunningham
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

11/3/2005 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- Age, weather and more than 3,000 operations every week take their toll on the busiest runway in Afghanistan.

Without a continual effort to repair the runway here, the mission would virtually come to a halt.

A nine-man spall-repair team from the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron spends more than two hours every day maintaining the runway. A spall is a shallow break in the concrete, usually found along a joint.

“We’ve made more than 200 repairs in the last two months,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Benbrook, the noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield maintenance who’s deployed here from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. “This is an ongoing effort to support the mission until the new runway is completed.”

“The 455th ECES airfield repair team mission is critical to our operations at Bagram. Without constant runway repair, Bagram flight operations will stop within a few days or risk significant damage to fixed-wing aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Mark Danigole, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. “Without their tremendous effort, Bagram drops from 140,000 operations a year -- three times the rate at Ramstein Air Base, Germany -- and becomes little more than a huge parking lot.”

The team must overcome the challenge of timing all repairs between arriving and departing flights. 

To make a repair, Airmen saw a square around the spall, jackhammer away the bad concrete, vacuum up the debris, then fill the hole with a quick-drying mortar mix. Within 30 minutes, the repair is dried and ready for aircraft to land on.

Bagram’s runway supports combat and humanitarian missions. The repairs keep the spall’s loose debris from damaging aircraft engines or tires.

“What we do has a direct impact on the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Brady Dryden, NCOIC of the spall repair crew. “Without us, the aircraft couldn’t do their job. It makes us feel like we’re part of what’s going on here at Bagram.”

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