Three months ago, four Air Force engineers with the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group arrived in northern Iraq to conduct a reconnaissance mission for what would become a historic undertaking. The engineers were informed their task had never been attempted in Iraq.
Their mission: Mitigate runway damage caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The 1st ECEG took the mission, and last night, when the telltale cadence of four turboprop engines grew louder and louder, they knew their hard work had paid off.
Over the last two years, ISIL severely damaged the runway at Qayyarah West Airfield — a major strategic airfield in northern Iraq’s Ninawa province. ISIL detonated explosives, used an excavator with a hammer attachment, and created deep trenches to damage the runway in several different ways.
Logisticians deployed in support of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve are enabling Iraqi forces as they push to retake Mosul. They need larger, fixed-wing aircraft to expeditiously move larger amounts of supplies to the Iraqis, and those aircraft need a proper runway.
In order for a C-130 Hercules cargo plane to land, it requires a runway the length of 33 football fields.
Air Force Maj. Jason Stevens, 1st ECEG officer in charge of the project, detailed the project during its outset.
“We’ll be on the ground for about three weeks to fix the damage,” Stevens 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.”