19 CES ‘Dirt Boyz’ reestablish Herk Nation's sole dirt runway

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isabell A. Nutt
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark.—Three heavy equipment operators, or ‘Dirt Boyz,’ from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron recently completed a temporary duty to the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, Arkansas, to revise the Cole Landing Zone.

The Cole LZ is an unpaved, dirt and clay-based runway used by Little Rock Air Force Base to carry out approximately 250 C-130J Super Hercules touch-and-go training missions a year.

On Aug. 15, 2022, Staff Sgt Casey Beaupre, Staff Sgt. Austin Schafer, and Senior Airman Nicholas Wilhelm began working to strengthen the surface of the LZ and create a crown, which helps drain the runway during heavy rain.

“Whenever we got there it had a reverse crown, so it was holding more water than what it was draining off,” said Schafer. “The biggest thing we had to do was set up the crown and move a lot of material.”

The team however was met with heavy rain during their mission, which made the surface of the LZ soft and difficult to work with.

“The rain took three or four days away from us,” said Beaupre. “The second any moisture got onto the LZ it was slick, our equipment was sinking, and it was causing more damage than good.”

Once they could work with the surface, they spent the remainder of their 11-day TDY redefining the ground to create a new crown, ensuring better drainage in the future and a more solid landing surface. The team wrapped up their mission on Aug. 26, 2022.

“The fact that we got it done on time even with all the obstacles we had was the most important thing for me,” said Schafer.

Beaupre stated that he and his team left the Cole LZ better than they found it, and that the 19th CES will continue to improve it in the future. 

“We provided Little Rock AFB aircrew with a safer area to land, and it’ll last longer now than what it did before.”