To Be Airborne Is To Be Ground Ready
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Danielle Dawson
After more than a year of weather wars,
underground surprises, and miles of paper trails, a monumental
endeavor in South Carolina Air National Guard history has ended. The
runway reconstruction project at McEntire Joint National Guard Base
was completed the first week in February.
February 4, 2023 - One of the F-16 fighter jets from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing
lands at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, from the
temporary base Columbia Metropolitan Airport in West Columbia, South Carolina, since April 2022 due to major runway renovations at McEntire JNGB. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Dawson, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.)
According to Lt. Col. Gareth Fleischer, the
169th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, construction began in May
of 2021. However, the initial planning for this project dates back
“The original design created during 2015 through
2018 only included a partial runway reconstruction,” said Fleischer.
“We eventually thought it economical to reassess the design for a
whole runway reconstruction to avoid runway closure in the future.”
Fleischer explains how a project that began at 16 million
dollars turned into a 30-million-dollar design.
with the National Guard Bureau to complete the updated design,” said
Fleischer. “The project was then sent to the deputy assistant
secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety, and
infrastructure for funding and bid Airman 1st Class Danielle Dawsonity.”
relieved to announce the bids were awarded and designs were approved
by the end of 2021 and construction began shortly thereafter.
“A portion of original runway had not been replaced since the
1950s and the rapid decline in durability was a contributing factor
that provoked the need for reconstruction,” said Fleischer. “We
ended up tearing out almost 50 percent of the runway and replacing
it with concrete versus asphalt.”
Fleischer emphasized that
the most critical areas on a runway are the points where the
aircraft touch down. He noted replacing the asphalt with concrete
significantly increases durability against the impact of aircraft
for years to come.
Mr. Nelson McLeod, an engineer with the
169th CES and contracting officer representative, sheds light on a
few additional components.
“For the first time, we have an
underdrain system within the new portions of the runway,” said
McLeod. “Underneath the concrete is a filter fabric and gap graded
stone aggregate that allows for any water under the concrete to
drain off into a French drain and distributes to drain ditches.”
Preventing water from pooling under the concrete keeps the soil
from eroding underneath and causing cracks in the pavement. This
mitigation alone could add years to the lifespan of the runway.
McLeod expressed his excitement for the project but also
recognized this project was no easy task, stating the main causes
for delays and contract extensions were unforeseen conditions
“We found abandoned cables, pipes, duct banks,
and concrete throughout the digging process,” said McLeod. “Each of
these findings required examination from a separate party and
reassessment for extraction.”
Despite the setbacks, both
Fleischer and McLeod are grateful for the successful accomplishment
and share deep gratitude for everyone involved.
“None of this
would be possible without the support of our wing, Air National
Guard Civil Engineering Technical Center and National Guard Bureau,
specifically the Logistics and Installations Directorate [NGB/A4],”
February 3, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing conduct a foreign object damage walk on the taxiway and runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina in preparation for the return of the unit's F-16 fighter jets that have been temporarily operating out of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in West Columbia, due to major runway renovations at McEntire JNGB. The FOD walk is a significant part of the final phases of the runway reconstruction project that began in April 2022. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Caycee Watson, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.)
He also highlighted the collaboration with
the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
“As much equipment and
logistics that are required to support our Airmen and aircraft, I
don't want the adjustment the airport made for our mission to go
unnoticed,” said Fleischer.
At a base level, the effects of
the runway construction were felt by all, McLeod said. McEntire
Joint National Guard Base displayed phenomenal resilience as each
squadron did their part to continue the mission.
Security Forces Squadron played a vital role in vetting all
personnel coming into the installation,” said McLeod. “While also
demonstrating optimal security at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport,
ensuring the safety of our equipment and Airmen.”
added that the 169th Maintenance Group and the 169th Operations
Group held a large footprint at the airport to keep operations
mission-ready. He is grateful for the Airmen's perseverance as they
navigated through this time.
McLeod and Fleischer are
grateful for their civil engineer Airmen and the work they put into
constructing the runway design, facilitating airport collaboration,
and maintaining the grounds at McEntire.
accomplishment for the civil engineer Airmen was installing an
aircraft arresting system at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport for
the fighter jets landing,” said Fleischer. “While also installing
[heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] in the wing’s temporary
McLeod and Fleischer agree that the magnitude
of this project was a significant team effort that will affect
McEntire Joint National Guard Base for many years to come.
Our Valiant Troops |
I Am The One |
Citizens Like Us
U.S. Air Force |
Air National Guard
U.S. Air Force Gifts |