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News | Sept. 28, 2021

773d CES plows through season's first snow

By Airman 1st Class Patrick Sullivan 673d ABW/PA

U.S. Airmen from the 773d Civil Engineer Squadron gathered amongst a flurry of snow for a monthly training exercise known as Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Day, or Prime BEEF Day, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 24.

The training day is critical to maintain 773d CES members’ skills and deployability, and the event's schedule included an M4 carbine live fire, vehicle familiarization training, and a sexual assault and prevention course.

The team was immediately faced with adversity when the firing range called in with a two-hour delay to allow time to clear the increasing snowfall. Quick to adapt, the first firing group instead practiced their weapon maintenance and handling skills.

After the delay, the second firing team left for the range as the snow whirled outside. An hour later the team found themselves loading back onto the bus and returning to the training site as the unrelenting snow forced the range to issue a cease-fire.

This was the earliest heavy snowfall Anchorage had seen in years, and for JBER’s civil engineers this was more than a minor inconvenience. This was an all-hands-on-deck mission for the entire squadron.

Snow removal is one of the most challenging and important duties handled by the 773d CES, as much of the installation’s mission revolves around their ability to quickly clear roads and runways.

Racing from the training center back to their job sites, the Airmen jumped into action, joining the rest of their team in handling the early-season snowfall.

The voice of Frank Hacecky, the 773d CES airfield clearing supervisor, could be heard over various handheld radios as he barked out directions to the numerous machines that had already begun clearing the flight line.

“It is basically like running Air Traffic Control for all of the pieces of snow equipment spread out over the entire airfield, and monitoring their movement closely to not interfere with aircraft,” explained U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Compton, the 773d CES pavements supervisor.

Despite some Airmen being at training during the beginning of the snow response, the 773d CES was prepared for the challenge. Keeping a close eye on the forecast and anticipating the oncoming early snowstorm, supervisors at the Snow Barn developed a rotating roster of their military personnel to maintain full coverage while waiting for their snow shift seasonal hires to come on board.

“Snowfall can be challenging if we aren’t prepared,” said Compton. “But pre-snow season preparation takes a lot of guesswork out and helps eliminate risks. Our team here at the Snow Barn was ready and responded to the first snow with vigor.”

Long hours are a regular sacrifice members of the 773d CES make to keep the mission running. While much of the installation might enjoy a delayed report time during extreme weather, JBER’s civil engineers are working at full force to reopen the roads and runways.

“In winter we run 24-hour ops,” said Adam Jackson, a 773d CES airfield equipment clearing operator. “Holidays and everything. If they’re flying, then we’re running.”

Nothing can stop the arrival of Alaska’s winter, but JBER's civil engineers work tirelessly to make sure the mission doesn't have to stop for it either.