Messy work calls for 'Dirt Boyz'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"They can push dirt really well - and they're proud of it."

"They're kind of the rebels of the flight," said Capt. Tiffany VanDenBroeke, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander, while describing her "Dirt Boyz."

Members of the 22nd CES are responsible for maintaining and building up the base. Sections of the squadron include the explosive ordinance disposal team, the base fire station, the facility maintenance flight and various other groups that work together to keep everything on base functioning.

Dirt Boyz are those Airmen who are digging a hole to install irrigation in a field, or the ones working the excavator during a culvert repair. The work is often laborious and lengthy, but complaints are seldom heard.

"We love what we do," said Airman 1st Class Thomas Garcia, 22nd CES craftsman. "That's why they call us Dirt Boyz."

There are more than 30 active projects in just the programs flight alone, with another few dozen projects going through the approval process at any given time. Airmen in the 22nd CES are always fixing something, said VanDenBroeke.

"I cannot even quantify the amount of work they have," said VanDenBroeke. "It's like having a 'to-do' list for your house, but expanding it to 135 Airmen [in the operations flight] working on 586 facilities."

While large scale projects such as runway renovations are managed through civilian contractors, the every-day repairs made around base are executed by the 100 Airmen and more than 30 civilian employees in the operations flight.

"If we don't fix all of the small problems," said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Ward, 22nd CES pavement construction equipment operator, "it will add up to a big one down the line."

An example of a typical project for the Dirt Boyz would be a sidewalk outside of Building One that had become misaligned and unsafe for use.

The culverts installed under the sidewalk were not large enough to allow water to flow properly which eventually began to erode the soil around the culverts which caused the sidewalk to partially collapse.

With proper sized culverts in the ground and a new sidewalk on top, the two week project eradicated another lingering problem on base, said Ward.

"Problems like that are quickly solved through preventative maintenance from our resident Dirt Boyz," said Ward.

When something on McConnell AFB needs to be fixed, someone at the 22nd CES takes the call, works up the chain of command and, before too long, that issue is being repaired or replaced.

"We're a customer service-oriented agency," said VanDenBroeke. "If you need something done on base, that's what we do. We build, we maintain, we support. That's the purpose of the civil engineer squadron."