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“Dirt Boyz” fight frozen flurries

Personnel from the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron remove snow from the flight line at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., on Jan. 25, 2017. With more than three million square yards of flight line, the civil engineers, also known as “Dirt Boyz”, have cleared over 20 inches of snow this season alone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Personnel from the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron remove snow from the flight line at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., on Jan. 25, 2017. With more than three million square yards of flight line, the civil engineers, also known as “Dirt Boyz”, have cleared over 20 inches of snow this season alone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Every year, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron activates a team from within their own unit to remove the icy powder that blankets Ellsworth and threatens the B-1 bomber mission.

“We’re 24-hour ops,” said Senior Airman Nicholas Murtagh, a heavy equiptment operator assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron. “So when it snows, we’re always going to be ready to start.”

This season has already layered the ground with more than 20 inches of snow, and with three million square yards on the flight line alone, the civil engineers have their work cut out for them.

The hangar that hosts their operations, known as the Snow Barn, is located just outside the flight line and allows them quick access to both sides of their mission.

“When it snows, we go into snow ops,” Murtagh said. “We have priorities base-side and on the airfield. We start with those priorities and work down the list.”

While the process for base-side snow removal remains nearly the same, flight line priorities change every day.

“When priorities change, I convey the message to our snow teams,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Vandersloot, a construction equipment supervisor assigned to the 28th CES. “Basically, snow [team] one takes care of the airfield side and snow [team] two takes care of the base side.”

Whether it’s clearing the way for a massive B-ONE on the flight line or a tiny Prius on the way to the owner’s workplace, the “Dirt Boyz” take pride in their work.

“The most rewarding part about my job is knowing that we’re essential for these planes taking off,” Murtagh said. “Without us, they wouldn’t be able to get off the ground. Same goes for base-side people. They wouldn’t be able to get to work safely without us clearing the roads.”  

Side-by-side with the Airmen from the 28th CES are civilian contractors – making up nearly half of the work force.

“Our civilians are a huge part of what we do,” Murtagh said. “It helps us out tremendously.”