LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- 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 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
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 Airmen work in all environments
and with a variety of construction materials that coat their clothes in a day’s
“I’ve been covered in it all: mud, dirt, sand and cement.” said Senior Airman Mathew Kanakares, 19th CES pavement and construction
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 boyz, you’re
always a dirt boy,’” Stewart said.
As experts in all types of heavy machinery, the 19 CES
construction equipment Airmen are trained to operate everything from road
graders, bulldozers and sweepers to dump trucks, excavators and front end
“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 roads and airfield serviceable so members of Team Little Rock can continue to provide combat airlift across