Military News

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cold, snowy winter: no match for Dover's Snow Removal Team

by Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


3/11/2014 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Old Man Winter sure has punished Dover Air Force Base this winter with snow and bitter cold temperatures, and he may not be finished.

Whether it is the roads or on the runways, the Dover AFB Snow Removal Team has been working hard to keep up with the above average snowfalls and guaranteeing that Team Dover's mission to deliver continues without a hitch throughout this winter season.

Tech. Sgt. Scott Capodice, 436th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight NCO in charge, said as of March 6th, the total snowfall for Dover AFB during the 2013-14 winter season currently stands at 35.4 inches. This is more than double the average annual snowfall of 16.2 inches.

"I've been stationed here for three years, and this winter has been by far the coldest we've had," said Capodice. "It's also the most snow, I've seen, since I've been here."

This winter has also been notorious for its bitterly cold temperatures. Daily low temperatures from November to March have been recorded to be on average 6.2 degrees colder than the historic weather patterns.

This abnormally difficult winter season has kept a team of Team Dover professionals busy.

The Dover AFB Snow Removal Team is broken up into two sections: the flight line crew and the street crew. The flight line crew is responsible for clearing snow and ice from the 2.2 million square yards of the airfield. The street crew is responsible for clearing 52 miles of roads and streets on base, including dozens of parking lots. Each of these crews is itself split up into day and night shifts.

Staff Sgt. Cesar Salas, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, is the daytime flight line "snowman." Salas stated that he oversees twelve personnel, who are responsible removing snow and ice from the runways, the taxiways, and ramps. He also has, at his disposal, four plow trucks, three broom trucks and three blower trucks. Salas coordinates between his crew and the Air Traffic Control Tower to determine which areas of the airfield need to be cleared. The runways have first priority over the taxiways during snow and ice events.

The phrase "great wall of Dover" refers to Atlantic Street, the main thoroughfare upon which most of Dover's traffic flows. Depending on which side of this street you are on, determines the type of deicing substance used on the roads. IceSlicer is used on all roads and parking lots west of Atlantic Street. It's the reddish colored material that many Team Dover members may be familiar with all over the roads and parking lots. A deicer known as NAAC is used on all roads and parking lots east of Atlantic Street, including the air field. The reason why NAAC is used is because it is significantly less corrosive than IceSlicer. It meets Federal Aviation Administration regulations, allowing it to be safely used on the runways and taxiways. This prevents corrosion and damage to the multimillion dollar C-5M Super Galaxies and C-17A Globemaster IIIs that call Dover, "home." It is also more expensive and that is why it is only used near the flightline.

Staff Sgt. Mitchell Scott, 436th CES water and fuels maintenance, holds the title of the snow removal team's "street boss." He is in charge of a crew of 15 personnel, six plow trucks, two backhoes, and a loader truck. Their mission is to guarantee that Team Dover's roads, streets, and parking lots are clear of snow and ice, to allow the clear flow of traffic across base.

"It's a pretty cool job; not many people appreciate it," said Scott. "If it wasn't for us, many people couldn't go to work."

The members of the Snow Removal Team are comprised of augmentees from throughout the CES Operations Flight. This is a secondary job that they perform throughout the winter season.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Ferguson, III, 436th CES Horizontal Shop NCOIC, oversees both the street bosses and the snowmen. According to Ferguson, the main difference between this season and seasons in the past is the extreme cold this year. This resulted in an above average amount of issues with snow removal equipment.

"This couldn't be possible without the help of the different shops," said Ferguson. "If it wasn't for them, it would be almost impossible to carry out the mission."

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