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Dirt Boyz work tirelessly to clear airfield amidst blizzard

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dakota LeGrand
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing

On the chilly afternoon of April 12, 2022, many assigned to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing sat in their warm, cozy homes as the snow outside fell heavily from the skies. 

Members of the 319th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy repair shop, also known as Dirt Boyz, had no such luxury. They worked tirelessly around the clock to clear the flight line of the hefty snow accumulation and ensure the execution of a vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission out of Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The blizzard was relentless and in less than 24 hours the base received nearly a foot of snow. Highways surrounding the base were closed, and traveling was difficult, if not impossible, due to the lack of visibility and snow-covered roads.

While the base and local communities stayed home for safety, the Dirt Boyz were busy clearing the airfield to ensure decision makers around the world received the intelligence needed to make informed decisions during turbulent world events.

As if driving in these conditions wasn’t difficult enough, they operated enormous snow plows, snow blowers and snow brooms that are up to 23 feet long and 14 feet high. The crew had to focus on safely operating this equipment for 12-hours straight, driving back and forth, day and night. 

“Our personnel displayed a great dedication to their craft," said Maj. Benjamin Fink, operations flight commander for the 319th CES. “When the base closed, they came to work and cleared the airfield so the flying mission could resume.”

Among those working diligently to restore the airfield for the launch and recovery of aircraft was Senior Airman Adrion Hargrove, a heavy repair journeyman with the 319th CES.

“After the plows created piles of snow, I came through with a snow blower to clear it,” Hargrove said. “The most rewarding part of the job is knowing my team worked together to execute our role in the wing’s RQ-4 Global Hawk mission.”

The RQ-4 provides a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations.

To put it briefly, the mission never stops for the 319th RW. 

That being so, the Dirt Boyz remain especially busy during the winter, as between November and April this year, the base received 70 inches of snow.

“It’s been a long winter for Grand Forks,” Fink said. “I have great respect for the Airmen and civilians that grinded through the relentless blizzards and high winds throughout the season. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this team.”