28 CES snow control gets down and dirty

  • Published
  • By Airman Sadie Colbert
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: this is the first in a series of two articles about the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron snow control flight and its mission.

Even as 90-degree temperatures remind us that summer is not yet over, the Airmen of the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron snow control flight are already preparing their equipment for future winter storms.

However, since it only snows part of the year here in South Dakota, some might wonder what the flight, also known as the snow barn, does when it is not snowing.

According to Staff Sgt. Paul Terlop, 28th CES pavements and construction heavy equipment operator, the team does more than work in a winter wonderland.

Also known as "dirt boyz," they take care of anything Ellsworth needs for heavy equipment, which includes snow removal, grounds work and building and destroying structures.

When the snow is not falling, the "dirt boyz" usually find themselves repairing infrastructure damaged during the previous winter.

"Like any other job in the Air Force, no job is more important than the other," Terlop said. "If it wasn't for us, the aircraft wouldn't be able to take off."

What many people may not know is that the team mans a sweeper 24/7 to help maintain the airfield.

Terlop said the sweeper plays a big role in assisting Ellsworth's flying mission. By picking up rocks or any foreign objects that could cause damage to aircraft, they help prevent potentially hazardous situations.

However, there can be a messy side to the "dirt boyz" job, especially when it comes to base plumbing and working in summer conditions.

"We get dirty all the time, especially if it's rainy," Terlop said. "We're jumping in and out of holes, getting muddy for water breaks and digging in general. When we do our own maintenance in the winter, we get greasy. There's hydraulic oil all over the place, and we're ruining uniforms just to get back out there [to work on repairs]. It's definitely dirty."

The life of a "dirt boy" gets messy sometimes, but the job is rewarding and enjoyable, Terlop added.

"The best thing about [the job] is that you're not doing the same thing over and over again," Terlop said. "Even [in] the same job, you're running into different situations.

Also, the people who are usually drawn to this career field are fun and outgoing. [They are] always in good spirits."

Snow control's job seems to be never ending as they work to keep Ellsworth's pavements clear and mission ready. Just when they think they are done for the summer, the signs of the approaching winter appear as the first dusting of snow falls on Ellsworth's airfield.

"It's snowing hard and the windshield wipers are freezing," Terlop said. "You'll have two feet of snow on your windshield all of a sudden, but you have to keep going..."