US Air Force engineers repair runway in Iraq for Mosul offensive

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Iraqi Airmen carry new weather equipment to the control tower of the Qayyara West Airfield. File photo

ARA News

Erbil – A group of US Air Force engineers finished on Saturday a three-week operation to repair the damaged runway at the Qayyarah West Airbase in northern Iraq. The US-led coalition said in a statement on Saturday that C-130 cargo planes have, once again, started to land at the airport.

Over the last two years, Islamic State (ISIS) militants severely damaged the runway at Qayyarah West Airbase. ISIS detonated explosives, used an excavator with a hammer attachment and dug deep trenches in order to keep the coalition from using the base. The strategic airfield in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate was seized by the Iraqi Army in August. 

“Logisticians, deployed in support of […] Operation Inherent Resolve, are currently enabling Iraqi security forces as they push to retake Mosul,” the coalition said.

“To expeditiously move larger amounts of supplies to the Iraqi security forces, they need larger, fixed-wing aircraft and a proper runway to get the job done.” the coalition added. “In order for a C-130 cargo plane to land, it requires a runway that spans over 33 football fields, end-to-end.”

“We’ll be on the ground for about three weeks to fix the damage,” US Major Jason Stevens, the officer in charge of the project, said. “It’s been a long time in the planning process. The guys are doing amazing work. They are making excellent progress. We are on schedule and we are moving forward every day.”

“The project was practiced and perfected in training, so when boots hit the dusty ground the mission would be in full swing,” said US Staff Sargent Tyler Charles, one of the engineers on the team.

“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Charles explained. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”

The American engineers had to systematically identify damaged areas of the airfield, cut those pieces of concrete out and then rebuild from the bare ground up. In addition, their job included earth tamping, concrete filling and curing – a process that takes about a day to complete.

“Moving up here and opening up this airfield will support the war fighter – get more beans and bullets on the ground; help the Iraqi Army to bring the fight to ISIS,” Master Sargent Reid Burns, the lead non-commissioned officer, said.

It took two years for ISIS to damage the airfield beyond what they believed repairable. They feared US-led coalition forces and the Iraqi Army could use the base as a forwarding base for future operations against ISIS in Mosul.

The coalition noted: “It took a small team of [our] engineers just three weeks to make it fully operational. Now the coalition can quickly supply the Iraqi security forces on the front lines of Mosul, enabling the defeat of ISIS.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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