Marine team wins runway repair competition
November 4, 2004
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Marines, sailors and airmen came together here last week for a first-time competition to determine the king of runway repair.
The Pacific Command Airfield Damage Repair Commander’s Cup competition, at the Silver Flag exercise site on Kadena, was hosted by Detachment 1, 554th Red Horse Squadron.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Davis, 554th chief of operations, said the competition was designed to test all Pacific Command engineers. Only the Army, prevented by operational commitments, wasn’t represented, Davis said.
The competition had three categories: command and control, crater repair and a combination of the first two events.
During the command and control category, Davis said, the teams had to select the best part of a runway to repair for a minimum operating strip, then select the appropriate surface to use for minimum repairs.
The second category had teams racing time to use aluminum or Fiberglas matting to completely repair a simulated 50-foot-wide by 20-foot-deep bomb crater. The last category included both selecting the runway and completing repairs.
Each 35-member team took first in one category: Kadena’s 18th Civil Engineer Group in the command and control portion, the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 Seabees in crater repair, Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 in the last event. It also won the overall competition.
The first-place finishes by each team created an extremely close competition, Davis said: just four points separated them. “They were graded on speed, efficiency, accuracy, and also quality of the repair,” he said.
Before the competition, Davis said, each team was brought to Kadena for training — which really benefited the Marines, who started training Oct. 4: Only one person on their team, Master Sgt. Douglas Clasen, had performed such a task.
“Our team had no experience besides the master sergeant when we started out,” said Cpl. Luke Shook, heavy equipment mechanic. Most had been in the Corps less than a year, he said. “The training from Red Horse was really good.”
Clasen said most of the unit’s Marines were taking part in an exercise and weren’t able to compete.
“It reinforced that if we take our young troops and give them the right tools and training, they can do anything we ask them,” Davis said.
The competition also gave teams an opportunity to observe their counterparts. “We learned each other’s doctrine,” Davis said. “With smaller services, we’re going to be working together someday, so it’s important to know how the others operate.”
The Marines from MWSS 172 will get to hold the trophy for the next year. Davis said they plan on this becoming an annual competition, which next year also may include their Japanese counterparts.