786 CES “Dirt Boyz” keep runways clear

The 786th Civil Engineer Squadron “Dirt Boyz” worked around the clock to keep runways free of snow and ice on Ramstein Air Base, Feb. 27 and 28.

While a winter storm blew in, closing schools and sending most of the workforce home early, essential personnel remained to ensure no missions were impacted.

A snow operations team of 17 pavements and equipment operators and seven augmentees met the winter weather head-on with a fleet of heavy snow removal equipment.

U.S. Air Force Airman Noah Carney, left, Senior Airman Amber Ingalls, Airman 1st Class Charles Zine and Airman 1st Class Ronald Williamson, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment operators, pose for a photo on an Oshkosh Snow Broom snow removal vehicle at Ramstein Air Base, Feb. 28. The four Airmen are members of the 786th CES snow operations team led by Williamson.

“We had no issues or delays,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Sternberg, 786th CES pavements and equipment NCOIC. “We actually had a diverted aircraft from Frankurt-Hahn that was able to land here.”

The snow operations team was led by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ronald Williamson, 786th CES pavements and equipment operator.

Williamson, who has now seen two snow seasons at Ramstein, brought a lot of experience and was key to this year’s success, Sternberg said.

Base operations run 24 hours a day to support the mission, and proper preparation for adverse weather helps ensure those operations are not interrupted.

“This is an airlift base, so there are always aircraft that need to come in and land on this airfield,” Williamson said. “If the airfield’s too slippery, there could be millions of dollars in damages, but all that was avoided.”

Members of the 786th Civil Engineer Squadron snow operations team drive Oshkosh Snow Broom snow removal vehicles across an airfield ramp to sweep away remaining snow and ice after winter weather on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 28, 2020. Morning ice was a big concern that the team successfully addressed, enabling airfield operations to continue without delay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

Morning ice was another concern that the snow operations team successfully addressed.

“Ice is usually the big problem,” Williamson said. “But we went out there and took it head-on with our de-icers. The de-icing fluid melts the ice to the point that we can move it with the snow removal vehicles.”

The snowy weather was also a first-hand training opportunity for new 786th CES Airmen.

“We have a lot of new Airmen straight from tech school,” Sternberg said. “Getting them trained and experienced, so that they can continue to train other Airmen, is great.”

With more well-trained and seasoned Airmen ready to battle inclement weather, runway operations will not be compromised, and the World’s Best Wing can continue to provide professional airlift to any country, any time, from the pavement up.