Kunsan crew keeps snow from causing mission drift
December pounded Kunsan Air Base with its heaviest snowfall in three decades and kept Air Force snow-removal crews working round-the-clock shifts in frigid temperatures, base officials reported.
With a break in snowfall — which at Kunsan totaled 6 feet for December — snow crews worked a 10-hour shift to clear the runways Tuesday. By Wednesday, the jets of Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing again roared skyward.
The opportunity to get into snowless skies brought a sigh of relief to the wing, which has spent December coping with the record snows in South Korea’s southwestern region.
“Over the course of December, we received 73 inches of snow here at Kunsan,” said 1st Lt. Brooke Brander, a spokeswoman for the wing, also known as the Wolf Pack. “That broke our previous record for snowfall for the month of December, which was 47.9 inches, back in 1973.”
Flights of the Wolf Pack’s F-16 fighter planes have continued through the month, but on some days the wing had to halt flights because of the weather.
“If it was safe to fly, we flew,” Brander said.
Now and then during December, Kunsan sent its Korean employees home early, and on Dec. 12 and Dec. 21 the base exchange, commissary and bowling closed early, Brander said.
“That was to make sure they got home safely,” Brander said of the employees.
Apart from pauses in the wing’s flying schedule and the occasional early release of civilian workers, December’s relentless snows had little impact on the base’s operations — except for the Wolf Pack’s snow-removal crews, known by their Air Force nickname of “dirt boys,” Brander said.
At Kunsan, the dirt boys are members of the Wolf Pack’s 8th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“Their job is to take care of the roads and the grounds on base,” Brander said.
“If there’s a pothole, they’re the guys who are going to fill and fix that pothole and keep our roads safe to drive on,” she said. “So when our roads get covered in snow, it’s their job to remove that snow so we can use our roads.”
December’s hard work began early for the Wolf Pack’s dirt boys, who by Dec. 4 had swung into 24-hour operations, Brander said.
“That lasted for a total of 19 days,” she said.
The 24-hour operations ended Dec. 23, but the crews were on call through Christmas weekend “in case they needed to come in and start plowing again.”
Tuesday brought a 10-hour shift for the dirt boys to “make sure everything was good to go and safe to start flying today,” Brander said Wednesday.
“It comes down to, it was a massive team effort led by our Civil Engineer Squadron to clear our flightline and our streets and our walkways,” she said. “And they successfully kept the Wolf Pack mission going and kept our airmen safe.”
At Gwangju Air Base At Gwangju Air Base south of Kunsan, soldiers in the Army 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Patriot missile unit faced recurring problems with diesel gas freezing in their tactical vehicles, brigade spokesman 1st Lt. Justin Fincham said.