Runway repair on the double
POHANG, South Korea -- Rapidly fixing a battle-scarred runway can make the difference between ending a battle quickly with air support or leaving highly trained pilots on the sidelines.
On Friday, Navy Seabees and their South Korean counterparts practiced runway repair after a simulated missile attack with speed and accuracy in mind at a South Korean air base in Pohang, as part of the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration and Foal Eagle exercises.
Seabees used a flush “foreign objects and debris cover” to patch the runway and keep air traffic rolling.
Earlier in the week, Seabees took as long as 38 minutes to roll out and prepare the cover for a gaping hole in the concrete runway. By Friday’s demonstration in front of a South Korean admiral and other dignitaries, the Seabees prepared the cover in 17 minutes.
Trucks and construction vehicles then filled the hole with dirt and smoothed it before the Seabees covered it over. The entire process took a little over 40 minutes.
After a missile attack, damage assessment teams plot craters on a map and look for strips of runway that are easiest to repair, said builder Chief Petty Officer Carl Peltier.
Next comes the cover. On Friday, the Seabees rolled out a 3,000-pound fiberglass cover, and then interlocked it with metal grommets.
“The most difficult part of this is getting the holes lined up,” said Seaman Lee Seltenreich.
Seabees will sometimes use fiberglass covers; other times, they use much heavier aluminum covers that interlock like Legos, Peltier said. The aluminum covers take longer to set, he said.
However, the material isn’t as important as getting the team on the same page, the Seabees said. Twenty-two Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 Seabees from Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., participated in the exercise. Twelve of them have been on a six-month deployment to Chinhae Naval Base in South Korea, while 10 who have been deployed to Okinawa were sent to the peninsula for the exercise.
The Seabees worked side-by-side with South Korean Navy Wing 6 servicemembers.
“The main thing is doing this over and over,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Prime. “The more we do it, the faster we get, like anything else.”