Monsoon prep: Dirt Boyz can dig it

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The 355th Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment Airmen rebuilt Atterbury Wash at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 28.

The pavements and equipment Airmen, also known as the Dirt Boyz, reconstructed the wash in hopes of creating a permanent foundation to withstand the rapidly approaching monsoon season.

“It has been going on since time began… We’ve had to rebuild it every year,” said Bruce Cada, 355th CES P&E foreman. “After years and years of fixing that wash and fence after monsoon season, we were hoping to give it a permanent fix and stop spending so much money on it.”

The wash collects water from the snow-topped mountains in the winter and extends to Pantano Wash and even the Rillito River.

“The storms would tear the fence completely out and that’s a security defense, so the base wasn’t secure,” said Cada. “Last year there was a bunch of telephone poles, trees, tons of grass that would pack up against the fence.”

The planning to maintain the wash began December 2016 in collaboration with base leadership, the 355th CES environmental specialist and local community leaders. The actual building process kicked off February 28, 2017, and since then, approximately 2,900 man hours have been spent working towards the completion of Atterbury Wash.

The reconstruction ended with total labor costs of $129,000 and material costs of $28,000. The 11-man team, four civilians and seven Airmen, used nearly 2,500 tons of dirt and 36 yards of concrete.

“We’re probably saving thousands of manpower hours by giving it a permanent fix,” said Cada. “So hopefully we would only have to do a day’s work right after a storm hits. We also clean all of the other washes before and after the monsoon season. It’s pretty much a never-ending cycle for these guys – they clean it up just so they can do it the next year because you can’t stop Mother Nature.”

The Dirt Boyz not only deal with monsoon preparation but base and airfield sweeping, repair and maintenance which unanimously labels them as “Jacks-of-all-trades.”

“The jobs on the airfield can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to a couple of days,” said Staff Sgt. Chad McCay 355th CES P&E craftsman. “We also do work with concrete, asphalt and we trim trees.”

Aircraft operations are a big part of the installation’s mission and the Dirt Boyz contribute to it by being available at any hour of the day, ready to seal any asphalt or concrete crack in a live ramp, runway or even a main street.

With 90 percent of their work hours being spent outside in the southern Arizona weather that averages 100 degrees in the lengthy summertime, the Dirt Boyz keep the mission afloat with their resilient strength.

“To be a Dirt Boy, you need to be tough and strong: mentally, physically, and emotionally,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Massey, 355th CES NCO in charge of P&E. “You need to come into work and you need to be ready to get down and dirty every day. It’s not an easy job.”