MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Snow-removal equipment operators travel the airfield at Minot Air Force Base, creating their own "blizzard" as the newly fallen snow whirled about them.
When snow starts to fall at Minot Air Force Base, the snow-removal equipment operators set to work as they were doing Monday.
Master Sgt. Robert Dalton, Pavements and Construction Equipment Section noncommissioned officer in charge for the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, said that currently the base is at 47 inches of snow since Oct. 1, 2009.
Eloise Ogden/MDN --
Minot Air Force Base snow-removal operators Staff Sgt. Robert Owens and Senior Airman Phillip Cornell show on Jan. 28 how snow-removal equipment cleans the base airfield of snow. Owens, a pavements and construction equipment craftsman from Missouri, demonstrates the rotary snowblower, and Cornell, a pavements and equipment journeyman, drives a 20-foot plow to demonstrate its use. A snowbroom also is used at the airfield.
Last year, the base got 93 inches of snow between Oct. 1, 2008, through April 2009, said Dalton, who is in his fourth winter at Minot AFB. He's been doing the same job in the Air Force for 15 years.
To move all that snow, the Pavements and Equipment Section has 60 operators 30 military and 30 civilians, Dalton said.
The number of people to move snow depends on the snowfall and the mission. "We do quite well with the 60 operators," he said.
Certain areas of the base are priority areas for snow removal and the airfield is the No. 1 priority, Dalton said.
"As soon as the first snowflake hits the pavement, we start clearing. We keep on going until all the snow has been removed from the paved surfaces on the airfield so the aircraft can launch and recover," he said.
He said the work can take up to a week. "We've got 1.8 million square feet of airfield," he said.
"We use 20-foot plows, 18-foot snowbrooms and rotary snowblowers," Dalton said.
The equipment operators' training is more hands-on training for the specific piece of equipment as well as the different operating procedures on the airfield, Dalton said.
"Besides working the flightline we've got the WSA. The weapon storage area is also a Priority One as well as keeping the main streets on base open, essential mission critical facilities such as our command posts for both the 5th and 91st wings as well as going out to the missile complex and doing snow removal at the launch facilities (missile sites)," Dalton said.
As for the missile sites, he said it's based on their maintenance requirements. "Sometimes they can be a Priority One and go all the way down to a Priority Three," he said.
The missile alert facilities in the missile field have their own snow-removal equipment.
Besides the airfield and main streets, we've got 130-plus parking lots and 76 miles of roads in housing a total of 78 miles of streets and roads on base, plus the missile complex," Dalton said.
"We've got a fair share of equipment," he said. "We use road graders, front-end loaders, 10-ton trucks with plows, sanders, rotary snowblowers and Bobcats."
Lt. Col. Roland Secody, chief of operations for the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, said many people with the units on base have their own small snow-removal equipment Bobcats and snowblowers and are relied on to do some of the immediate work. "It's truly a Team Minot effort but these guys do the majority of the load," he said, referring to the Pavements and Equipment Section people.
Dalton said base housing area residents are responsible for their own driveways and sidewalks. "We're just responsible for the streets," he said.
He said the snow-removal equipment operators do minor maintenance and the logistic readiness squadron does the heavy maintenance, providing 24/7 response when and if needed.
Dalton said the process of getting the snow removed is based on the priority of the mission or what's going on that day. He said all the snow does not get moved in one day.
Using the Christmas blizzard as an example, he said, "We got 26-inches of snow in that storm and it took us well over three weeks to get everything cleared."
He said the Christmas blizzard was an extremely tough time. "When they shut down Highway 83 sometime around 5 o'clock Christmas Day, we were left with 22 operators on base to cover 24 hours." Dalton said as he was also out moving snow.
"We kept all the emergency routes open," he added.
He said there was no travel on the highway for almost 20 hours, the highway was shut down around 5 at night and it didn't open until almost 1 o'clock the next afternoon.
Secody said as they get into the snow season, they go to a 24-hour operation, depending on the situation, with shifts up to 12-hour shifts.
When they aren't moving snow, Dalton said they're doing maintenance on the equipment, or doing work orders around the base such as repairing signs and fences.