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New tanker ramp opens, improves deployed conditions

by Tech. Sgt. Mike Hammond
380th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs
Photo by Senior Airman Dierra Stokes

A crew chief signals to the pilot of a KC-135 as the aircraft becomes the first to taxi onto this desert air base’s new tanker ramp Oct. 22. The new ramp allows the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing to consolidate many of its aircraft in one area, increasing efficiency.

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- It is a scene that plays often at air bases -- crew chiefs guiding aircraft onto the ramp.

But this time the aircraft was taxiing onto a brand new tanker ramp, and the sound of its engines signaled a new era of safety and efficiency for air operations here.

The Oct. 22 opening of the new ramp -- which covers 41.5 acres, or the size of 32 football fields -- marked the culmination of more than two years of planning, coordination and construction.

"We used to operate with (tanker) airplanes parked on taxiways that were 40-feet wide -- built for fighters," said Lt. Col. Dean Bridger, 380th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander. "Maintainers had to tow the planes in and out of parking and the maintenance stands had to be set up on the sand -- which was not an ideal safety situation for maintenance troops servicing the aircraft."

Colonel Bridger added that parking areas were on opposite ends of the airfield, at a distance of more than two miles apart.

"The new ramp consolidates many of our aircraft in one area, which reduces costly transit time between the locations. It also allows refueling trucks ample room to maneuver and fuel the aircraft," he said.

According to the maintenance squadron commander, having the new ramp open greatly increases his unit's operational efficiency.

"Our squadron was spread out among three ramps," said Lt. Col. Allan Day, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "We had to do more than 500 tow jobs per month to launch and recover aircraft and do maintenance runs off the parking areas. That took a toll on our people and tow vehicles."

"The new tanker ramp is taxi on/taxi off -- which eliminates a significant man-hour load that we can reapply to generating combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa," Colonel Day said.

Such a project would not have been possible without involvement from nearly every facet and organization on the base, Colonel Bridger said.

"It was the hard work of the Construction Management Office staff under Maj. Michael Sheredy that resulted in the ramp being built. They spent many months working with various agencies and contractors to make this project a reality," he said.

The tanker ramp is just one vital part of an ongoing $47 million military construction project that includes many additional improvements to operations and safety here, Major Sheredy said.

"The inception of the idea was in the Fall of 2003. It was (later) added to the (fiscal year) 05 global war on terror supplemental," the major said. He said the Oct. 22 official completion marked the culmination of 13 and a half months of construction efforts to produce the ramp.

As with many large projects, unexpected issues came up during the process, but these were handled.

"We wanted to maximize the number of aircraft we could put on the ramp," Colonel Bridger said. "We also painted some vehicle parking lines to add safety by showing where flightline vehicles could park while staying out of the way of taxiing aircraft."

To accomplish that two-fold goal, four members from the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron painted more than 24 miles of lines -- often working in triple digit temperatures.

"Their efforts were indicative of the way everyone involved refused to let any challenge stand in the way of successfully completing the project," the colonel said. (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)

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