CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
It’s freezing outside, the wind is biting you, and you’re starting up your car first thing in the morning. Fast forward a few minutes and you’ve arrived at Cannon Air Force Base. Regardless of the weather, the roads are clear and the flight line is still bustling with activity and planes lifting off. The snow and ice seems to be cleared as well, but it didn’t clear itself.
“When inclement weather is projected we stand up the Snow Control Center office,” said Master Sgt. Matthew W. Eppinger, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, heavy equipment and pavements non-commissioned officer in charge. “Our shop is responsible for performing snow and ice control removal operations. During an actual snow event, the SCC is manned 24/7.”
When it comes to removing the snow and ice, a team formed by the Dirt Boys and other 27 SOCES augmentees are on the job, and split into two teams.
“One of the teams is assigned to the airfield while the other is assigned to the base,” said Tom Deluna, 27 SOCES, heavy equipment operator. “We are responsible for clearing the snow on the airfield which includes both runways, 10 Taxiways, two parking aprons and base proper which includes base entrance gates, all base streets and parking lots along with the munitions storage area access roads.”
To clear the snow, a variety of vehicles and construction equipment is used.
“We have specialized equipment for specific use on the airfield,” Eppinger said. “For base proper and munitions storage areas we use dump trucks, plows and other construction equipment.”
On top of just the heavy equipment vehicles themselves, a variety of attachments are utilized to get the job done. These include multi-purpose units with plows, blowers and broom attachments. It’s like a Transformer picking up another machine to add to its arsenal.
“Depending on the weather forecast for the airfield various snow removal vehicles and pieces of equipment will be used: multi-purpose units with plows, blowers and broom attachments,” Deluna said. “We also have the capability to either perform anti-ice or de-icing operations on airfield pavements.”
For the gates, roadways and intersections, it’s as simple as clearing the road and using sand and/or salt as needed.
To prevent snow and ice from getting out of control, when expecting inclement weather, the snow team personnel are placed on stand-by-status until needed, and take a variety of measures to minimize snow and ice build-up.
“Depending on the precipitation forecast we may apply an anti-ice chemical to the runway to minimize ice from adhering to the runway surface,” Eppinger said. “And all of our snow equipment and vehicles are pre-checked and coordinated with other base organizations.”
The job is base-wide, so it takes a specific mindset and Airmen to get the job done.
“Our job is interesting because we can work pretty much anywhere on base,” Eppinger said. “Our job requires a common sense approach to accomplish a lot of our tasks, which leaves opportunity for creativity, ingenuity and outside-the-box thinking.”