MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS -- The Marines worked together to replace the old sections of the runway and expand the SELF’s taxiway from 72 feet to 96 feet in an effort to increase mission readiness and allow the airfield to accommodate the landing and takeoff of larger aircraft.
“Our goal is to get the airfield ready for use in between the [Integrated Training Exercises],” said Master Sgt. Thomas Davis, Expeditionary Airfield Services Chief, MWSS-374. “It’s important that we keep it safe and ready for aircraft using the landing field.”
Over time, rubber builds up on the aluminum landing field due to aircraft landing, resulting in the non-skid surface wearing out. This can affect aircraft landing if not properly maintained.
“Our work can be expected to take about a month,” Davis said. “With about two or three projects a year, we get busy at times.”
The construction of a SELF begins with creating a sizable flat terrain using heavy equipment. Connectable panels are then laid down to create the runway.
“The heavy equipment operators do an awesome job,” Davis said. “It’s up to them to lay the foundation. If it’s off a little bit that can be a big deal.”
Davis estimates that the Marines lay approximately 40 thousand square feet of matting per day. The aluminum, 6-foot panels weigh 77 pounds whereas the 12-foot panels weigh 144 pounds and take two man teams to move effectively.
“The primary purpose of the SELF is to support the ITX and pre-deployment training,” said Staff Sgt. John Schoolfield, quality insurance inspector, MWSS-374. “Supplies are often shipped on base through aircraft rather than ground transport.”
The SELF, designed for sustained operations, plays a significant role in the training of Marines aboard the Combat Center. MWSS-374’s maintenance process is an example of how the Marine Corps brings together Marines of different occupational specialties to form a powerful, cohesive unit.