MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Forty Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, amidst the desert heat, finished replacing the approach section of an expeditionary runway on the Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field at Camp Wilson, Sept. 29, 2014.
Marines from the support squadron laid 2000 feet of new matting for the airstrip. The runway was replaced due to wear and tear from large aircraft landings.
“We replaced it because the non-skid surface on the runway, which helps aircraft land, was covered with rubber from all the planes,” said Staff Sgt. John Schoolfield, staff non-commissioned officer in charge, SELF re-matting project, Camp Wilson.
Schoolfield said when the aircraft land, rubber gets left behind from the tires and over time it accumulates and eventually needs to be replaced. Wear on the runway was not the only reason why part of the landing area was refurbished.
“We also did it for safety,” said Capt. Wayne A. Gantz, airfield company commander. “It is a critical area that we replaced. It is where the big aircraft, like the C-130’s, touch down and this is a key training ground for the Marine Corps; this airfield supported Mojave Viper, and now the smaller integrated training exercises that test units on their mission capability.”
Although a daunting task, the Marines who worked on the project thought of it as a familiar children’s toy.
“It’s like a giant Lego kit” said Lance Cpl. Romen Hines, crew member, Expeditionary Airfield, Camp Wilson. “Once you start putting it together, after a day or so, you get into the rhythm of doing it and it gets easier.”
Although comparable to plastic building blocks, the panels were not light in weight. The Marines also had to re-learn how to lay down the matting. For most, they had not worked with it since their military occupational specialty school training.
“The 12 ft. panels weigh 144 lbs. and the 6 ft. [panels] weigh 77 lbs. Two-man teams had to pull them off and haul them and make stacks to send them back,” Schoolfield said. “I’m extremely surprised how well [the Marines] did. You would have never known that a lot of these guys had not worked with matting since the school house.”
Although the task was physically demanding, the Marines have now made the runway safer for aircraft landings and for training exercises in the future.