MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Usually the Misawa Air Base community hears the roaring of the F-16 Fighting Falcons, but since early May, the sounds of jack hammers and construction machines fill the air as a makeover occurs on the flight line.
The 35th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 35th Security Forces Squadron flex their muscles every hour of every day while working alongside their Japanese partners to ensure the runway construction is complete on time.
“The purpose of the construction is to replace old and deteriorating runway surfaces,” said Master Sgt. William Parrish, the 35th CES superintendent. “Airfield pavement is required to support heavy aircraft traffic and is used on a continuous basis. Deteriorated surfaces can start falling apart, producing foreign object debris hazards to the aircraft and can be a danger to the pilots.”
Planned construction takes care of the operation and maintenance of the airfield and support facilities. This includes painting and refurbishing hardened aircraft shelters while adding thaw systems and fixing the doors. This summer is the largest portion of the construction, requiring the entire runway to shut down and all aircraft to operate out of alternate locations.
The construction not only calls for increased operations for the CES, but causes the personnel to work more closely with other squadrons, including the 35th SFS, who inspect hundreds of asphalt trucks coming onto the base each day for the project.
"The biggest challenge was manning the 24-hour search operation at the commercial vehicle search area," said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Valenzuela, the 35th SFS operations NCO in charge. "We have been fortunate with other units pulling together and augmenting for us. This is a crucial project that is globally affecting the Air Force and our overall commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Without expedited entry, the asphalt in the vehicles could go bad and cost the Air Force millions of dollars and further delay the 35th Fighter Wing's 'fight tonight' mission."
Parrish said the work ethic of Misawa's host-nation partners is top-notch; the CES is working with its Japanese counterparts, accomplishing everything within the allotted time, which is imperative to getting the fighter squadrons back to home station.
“It’s nice having help from the host-nation teams to repair everything," said Airman 1st Class Samuel Hooper, a 35th CES pavements and have equipment technician. "These aircraft are worth millions of dollars and need a runway surface that is nothing short of perfect. Working with the Japanese always runs smoothly. We learn from their wealth of experience and we joke around with each other, but we work hard.”
Along with Japanese contractors, other CES personnel within shops such as the exterior electrical and horizontal heavy repair understand the importance of the airfield’s construction. The shops made the runway a number one priority.
“Part of the project is to change the elevations of the runway lights,” Parrish said. “The electric shop extracted the lights so the contractor can remove the below grade equipment and reinstall at the proper surface level. The 'Dirt Boys' perform spall repairs on the concrete portions of the runway not covered by the current project.”
A spall is a defect on a runway that is smaller than five feet in length and has a depth less than a foot. Once complete, Parrish said, the runway shouldn’t need any major repairs for another 10 years.
“Our runway is one of Misawa Air Base's greatest assets as a weapons systems platform,” Parrish said. “Keeping our runway well maintained allows us to remain the Indo-Asia-Pacific's preeminent joint, bilateral, dual-use installation, providing a sustained forward presence to help defend Japan and protect U.S. regional interests.”
Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th FW commander, surveyed many of the maintenance sights and offered his view on the work so far.
"They are performing exceptional work; this work showcases the concrete partnership between U.S. and Japan, and provides strategic power projection capability with a critical ally in the region," the colonel said. "Their attention to detail is phenomenal and I am very impressed with the long hours and dedication being put toward ensuring the runway can support not only our mission, but our Japanese counterparts as well."
The construction is slated to end early July.