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GTMO Runway Project Completed on Schedule

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070928-05
Release Date: 9/28/2007 11:35:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bob Lamb, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Naval Station (NAVSTA) Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Naval Facilities Command Southeast (NAVFAC-SE) and Knik Construction personnel completed a runway resurfacing project Sept. 21 at the Guantanamo Bay Leeward Air Terminal.

Having an operational runway is vitally important to any military installation, but because the runway at GTMO is the only connection back to other countries, the delay in air operations by just one week afects everyone.

GTMO is self sufficient because it makes its own water and electricity, but air travel on and off the island is vital.

Perishable items, such as certain fruits and vegetables, bulk and letter mail, rely on a lifeline that if severed, can result in poor quality of life issues.

According to Art Paquette, NAVFAC-SE engineering technician, the runway closure was planned and executed to be as painless as possible to GTMO residents.

“We communicated with Knik Construction on a daily basis, as well as they did with us, and I believe that’s what it took to complete this job in a timely manner," said Pauette.

The runway repaving did not come without a few hiccups in the process.

“On Friday, Sept. 14, the main generator for Knik’s batch plant would not start,” said Ensign Jeremy Gerrard. “After checking and replacing different parts of the generator it still didn’t work. Burns and Roe Utilities then installed shore power to the batch plant. Due to the age of the lines, the shore power was not sufficient enough to power the batch plant so a detachment from the U.S. Air Force loaned us one of their 750 KW generators. Burns and Roe Utilities came out and hooked up the generator and it worked. This allowed Knik to get back to work and eventually back on schedule. The runway was officially opened at 10 p.m. Friday night, 14 hours ahead of schedule,” said Gerrard.

During the closure other services, such as mail, were adjusted.

“We still accepted letters and packages across the counter and prepared our pallets for the next available mail flight. We held mail call every day and when the pallets became too much for us to hold we staged them over at the warehouse at the air terminal,” replied Postal Clerk 1st Class (SW/AW) Dorothy Pegram. “With no mail coming in, we did a lot of house cleaning and took on some projects to make the post office run smoother. We also held training to increase postal knowledge and efficiency. When Saturday’s mail arrived, it required an all hands effort. We took in 11 pallets of mail totaling 18,478 pounds. Of that total there was 1200 pounds of letter mail. And on Sunday, an aircraft brought another three pallets totaling 6,290 pounds,” said Pegram.

The post office normally has nine or so pallets of mail on any given work week and because of the delay mail increased to about 19 pallets.

“We had a slight break while the runway was closed but we more than made up for it when it reopened,” said Pegram.

Everyone from the commissary to the galley was affected in some small way. Some decide to take advantage of this time.

“The runway being shutdown actually increased our performance as pilots,” said Lt. Scott Anderson, Naval Station C-12 Pilot. “The runway being closed allowed us to land on the taxiway which is quite smaller. That takes some adjusting to. The runway did not hinder our mission for carrying passengers or cargo in any way, the only hindrance that we experienced as a whole, was mail and fresh fruit not being able to be delivered by the larger airplanes. “The contractors did an outstanding job to get the runway back up and running so the inconveniences were short-lived.”

After one week without an operational runway, service members in GTMO received extra training, residents saved money on traveling back to the States.

“Naval Station Public Works Department would like to thank Burns and Roe Utilities, the Air Force, Knik and PWD employees who worked many long hours last week to ensure that the runway would reopen on time," added Gerrard.

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