19th CES contributes to building Delta Junction ice bridge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Maria Umanzor Guzman
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Tucked away nearly 70 miles from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska resides a sprawling air-to-ground range that provides Air Force aircrews advanced targeting training.

Known as the Arkansas Target Range, this site provides air-to-ground training for F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 354th Fighter Wing and Red Flag-Alaska operations; featuring nearly two dozen mocked-up assets aircrews can conduct air-to-ground targeting training against.

This year, the 354th Range Squadron, who is responsible for the largest over-land range in the Department of Defense, received augmented support from several civil engineer squadrons across the Air Force. One of those squadrons called upon was Little Rock AFB’s very own 19th Civil Engineer Squadron.

With seasonal temperatures warmer than usual, the 354th RS determined that crossing the Delta River, which connects to the Arkansas Target Range, was not a viable option, requiring the need to construct a one mile ice bridge across the river to serve as the main supply route to the range.

“A one-way trip from Eielson AFB to Arkansas Range is about 70 miles,” said Tech. Sgt. Dakota Long, 19th CES noncommissioned officer in charge of heavy equipment. “We made this trip five separate times hauling Aircraft Ground Equipment heaters, a grader, two bull-dozers, a fuel truck, a storage unit for materials and a loader.”

Long said once the equipment was on-site, heavy equipment operators cleared a mile of unpaved road, a helicopter landing pad, and a 14,000 square foot parking area to stage all of the equipment and materials while ensuring that the area was available for vehicle maintenance.

He added that when his team arrived, the area was completely untouched and covered in four feet of snow and ice.

After clearing the equipment staging area, they were able to begin the process of constructing the ice bridge, which totaled 106,500 square feet, to deliver range maintenance equipment from the staging area to two separate ranges on the other side of the river.

“In order to construct the ice bridge, the ice on the river had to be crushed with the weight of all of our available vehicles to prevent voids that could cause equipment to fall through the ice,” Long said. “Once the road had been established in a controlled manner, we flooded the area with water, which froze in load-bearing ice layers to create the bridge.”

Long explained that after constructing the ice bridge, they were able to create the roadway from the equipment staging area to the ranges, to start the repairs of current targets, create new ones, and transport gravel across the bridge to the target pits.

After facing many challenges, the completion of the ice bridge allowed the 354th RS to better access the ranges in order to meet their annual requirement.

“It’s impressive to see how Airmen from different jobs and different units can come together as a team to effectively complete the mission,” Long said. “When it’s under freezing temperatures, equipment doesn’t want to start, or other challenges intervene, but a positive hardworking team can make a difference in a TDY and that’s what we had.”