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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Vann, a steel worker with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24, uses a concrete saw to cut a section of the runway here out so that it may be replaced. Vann is one of the Seabees who works the day shift for the runway reconstruction project scheduled to take the duration of their deployment here.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Seabees aid Marines, start runway project to ease takeoffs, landings

20 May 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Almost 40 sailors with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 began a runway reconstruction project here May 16.

The project includes excavating the old joints in the runway that are cracking, chipping and separating after years of wear and tear. Pouring new concrete will give jet aircraft a smooth surface for landings and take-offs and could reduce aircraft maintenance.

“This is our project,” said Petty Officer 1st Class David Shingelton, a builder with NMCB-24. “Since we were activated we have been told this is the reason we would be here. Working on this runway is just what we expected to be doing from the beginning.”

The project requires the Seabees to work night and day, cutting and excavating the old surface joints, reinforcing, prepping the site and adding new concrete for a nice, smooth surface.

“Each individual joint is 40 inches wide, 197 feet long and 12 inches deep,” Shingelton said. “There are more than 100 joints in the runway and after we finish the joints we have to fix the center line as well. The centerline has taken the brunt of the abuse over the years and it has big chunks of concrete missing from it.”

The reconstruction is not merely cosmetic. If not fixed the aircraft that use the runway would continue to be at risk of foreign object debris damage to their airframes and engines.

“The loose concrete can create havoc on aircraft,” Shingelton said. “Especially the big chunks of concrete that are out here: that could down an aircraft for a while.”

Before the project could get underway, the Seabees ran into their first snag when the sand, gravel and cement had to be convoyed in from other points in Iraq.

“The acquisition of the gravel and sand has been the most challenging aspect of the project thus far,” said Navy Lt. Michael Lynch, flightline reconstruction project officer in charge with NMCB-24. “Our supply department worked aggressively along side the 30th Naval Construction Regiment’s supply department and now our materials are arriving.”

With the materials in place, the Seabees are working through another challenge. The trucks that delivered sand and gravel have no dumping ability requiring the Seabees use special equipment to empty out the supplies.

“Having to use the excavator to pull out the material is a very time consuming and labor intensive job,” Lynch said. “It’s something we didn’t plan on. But that doesn’t make it a problem, just another opportunity to excel.”

The Seabees will soon have some help from the Work Horses of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271. The Marines will assist the Seabees as well as learn different types of machinery Navy construction battalions have in their arsenal.

“With the Marines help our speed will increase. They are interested in working with our gear, especially the cretemobile, the machine that mixes and places the concrete into the joints, and we can always use the help on a project of this magnitude,” Lynch said.

Having the Seabees work on the reconstruction of the runway here is just another example of the joint effort required for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This fall the Seabees will be done and the Marines will be able to use the runway to launch combat sorties to help rid Iraq of the insurgents who still occupy the country.

-For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at herronca@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil-
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