EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
The 354th Civil Engineer Squadron snow barn is Eielson’s one-stop-shop for snow removal. Airmen assigned here keep the infrastructure of the base as safe as possible by cleaning snow and ice in order to maintain a mission ready status.
When snow blankets the base, the team has to choose where to start. There are three priority levels, the first being the flight line. Once the flight line is clear, Airmen shift their focus to the roadways around base with the final priority being parking lots.
“Our job is like a dry-erase board; we start at our first priority and work our way down, but if it snows again, we wipe the board clean and go back to priority one,” said John Kowalski, the 354th CES director of airfield snow removal operations.
With a fleet of machines working 24 hours a day, the snow barn is efficient at clearing snow from the infrastructure of the base. First, a snow plow is used to pile up snow in berms before a sweeper comes in and removes snow the plow couldn’t get. Finally, a snow blower uses an auger to break down the berm and throw it off the tarmac or street. To completely clear an inch of snow off just the main runway, Airmen at the Snow Barn have to move 495,000 pounds of snow.
Snow barn Airmen know how to remove the snow but they rely on coordination from multiple agencies around the base in order to get the job done. One of the organizations they rely on is the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight. Snow Barn and vehicle maintenance Airmen work closely together to ensure all equipment is properly maintained due to extensive use and the harsh winter conditions.
Another unit snow barn Airmen work with is the 354th Operations Support Squadron. Airmen assigned to the 354th OSS contribute to the snow barn’s mission by providing them with weather forecasts, directions while on the airfield and flight times.
Looking forward, the snow barn will need get creative when the F-35A Lightning II aircraft arrive. The team is currently looking for a different place to move snow that used to be thrown where the F-35s will be parked.
“With the arrival of F-35s around the corner, we as a shop are gearing up for that by making necessary purchases and add-ons to more efficiently clear the base,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Bitton, 354th CES snow barn day shift noncommissioned officer in charge.
Regardless of how big the storm, the snow barn has always figured out a way to prevent Eielson and the Iceman Team from being snowed in.