JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.- —
While the leaves are still brown on the trees, the 87th Civil Engineering Squadron snow team is already gearing up for the winter months ahead to ensure that the Joint Base MDL community can still run safely and efficiently when the base gets covered in snow.
Stocking up on salt and fine tuning snow trucks and equipment, their preseason runs from October - December, prepping the essentials to tackle the ice and blistering climate that winter brings to New Jersey. From autumn to as late as April, the 70-person team is on 24/7 stand by for the real deal, all while working closely with other base agencies. With the combined knowledge and expertise, 87th CES Airmen are able to create a plan of action to get snow and ice off the roadways and airfields, returning the base to normal operations as quickly as possible.
“Our goal is to ensure that everyone can get their mission done,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Rollen Gabriel, 87th Civil Engineering Squadron pavement and equipment craftsman. “If the runway wasn’t cleared the aircraft would not be able to take off, so we take pride in our job and we take it seriously.”
The snow and ice buildup becomes an instant hazard for aircraft and vehicles, stopping all movement on base.
“If it wasn’t for the snow team, the base would be shut down and the mission would stop dead in its tracks,” said Gabriel. “We wouldn’t have aircraft getting refueled, or we wouldn’t be able to have aircraft taking off to deliver blood down-range to Soldiers that have been hurt.”
Here in the Northeast, snow team members are accustomed to their phones ringing in the early morning hours. While most people are still asleep, they are driving through the snow and ice to clear roadways and airfields. Their’s is a vital role.
“We feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when we hear about the difference we’ve made,” said Senior Airman Christopher Hill, 87th CES pavement and heavy equipment apprentice. “You hear about the things down range and all the people you’re helping and it makes you feel good about what you’re doing. We’re not just pushing snow.”