CE clears the way

DSC_2495 Thankfully, the snow came! It’s not often that I’ll say that but today I was counting on the fluffy stuff. My goal when I got to work (after someone put the bug in my ear) was to ride along with our Civil Engineering folks as they plowed around base.

When I made the phone call this morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to tag along with them. Sure enough, Dave Janke was more than willing to find me a ride!

I was kind of like a kid at the candy store all day, impatiently waiting for the time to come. Initially the snow was supposed to start falling around noon, then I heard 2pm. I was about to give up hope as the daylight was coming to an end – and then, it appeared – beautiful, fluffy, white snow! (I won’t be as excited about it on my way home tonight, but at that moment it was everything I had been waiting for!)

The CE guys didn’t waste any time. The snow started falling and they started clearing it. Our Air Control Alert mission depends on these guys to keep the flightline clean and ready for takeoff at any given moment. Should an emergency situation arise and our F-16s are needed in the skies, they need to be able to get there – CE makes sure they can!

Dan Miller, a heavy equipment operator and the driver of Engineer 8, allowed me to tag along with him. His plow was huge. I climbed up the stairs, carefully holding onto the hand rails. Before long I was in the cab, camera and all. Dan pulled out onto the taxiway and away we went!

Even though I didn’t plow the snow myself, for the first time in my career I felt like I got to participate in the Wing’s 24/7 ACA mission by making sure the hangar areas were cleared. I was right there in the action as Dan maneuvered the equipment!

We went around and around and around, sort of like riding around on a racetrack – just not quite as fast. Dan ensured the piles of snow were cleared so the sweeper could take care of the rest. He’s been retired from Truax for 5-years now, and still enjoys coming back every winter to help out. There’s just something about making a difference here at Truax that keeps people here longer than they intended to stay.

“The ride’s not as smooth as a Cadillac, but it’s not too bad,” Dan joked.

An hour up there was about all I had time for, but it was an awesome experience. I usually only get to see the flightline from the ground, so this gave me an entirely different perspective.

Even with the jets tucked away, it’s still one of the most peaceful places on earth! You can’t beat hanging out on a piece of land that holds the key to protecting our nation 24/7, snow and all!

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About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.