By Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Smoke rises from freshly placed asphalt on a newly paved road. A large construction vehicle cloaked in black soot sits at the end of the road signifying the job is almost done. The air is dominated by the smell of hot tar as Airmen from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and construction equipment shop work to spread the asphalt evenly.
Better known as the “Dirt Boyz” for their close relationship with grimy terrain and messy construction materials, they are unsung heroes working long hours in unforgiving weather to maintain the base’s airfield, roads, fences and drainage systems.
“It’s the greatest job in the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Butch Stewart 19th CES NCO in charge of the pavement and construction equipment shop. “It’s very gratifying because everybody benefits from the work we do.”
From the sweat of a summer’s day to the hardened cement flakes which cling to their uniforms, the Airmen work year-round excavating, pouring cement, paving asphalt, rooting trees, sweeping streets of debris and repairing barbed-wire fences which secure the base.
While deployed, their main priority is keeping the airfield serviceable for C-130s and other aircraft to take off and provide Combat Airlift capabilities globally.
Overseas and stateside, the “Boyz” work in all environments and with a variety of construction materials that coat their clothes in a day’s work.
“I’ve been covered in it all: mud, dirt, sand and cement.” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mathew Kanakares, 19th CES pavement and construction equipment craftsman.
Their work is often labor intensive and lengthy, but morale and comradery is never lacking in their shop.
Generations of pavement and equipment operators have made the name (Dirt Boy) a term of endearment for the pride, comradery, hard work and long hours they share.
“When I hear the term ‘Dirt Boy,’ I get a feeling of pride which flows throughout the career field because once you’re a ‘Dirt Boy,’ you’re always a ‘Dirt Boy,’” Stewart said.
As experts in all types of heavy machinery, the 19th CES construction equipment Airmen are trained to operate everything from road graders, bulldozers and sweepers to dump trucks, excavators and front end loaders.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” Stewart said. “I grew up playing with toy trucks, and now I get to play with even bigger trucks as a grown man.”
The “Dirt Boyz” may be known for dirt and soot, but their job is essential to the overall mission and security of Little Rock AFB. They work behind the scenes to keep the base serviceable so members of Team Little Rock can continue to provide Combat Airlift across the world.