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Ground crews keep grass in check around base

88th Civil Engineer Squadron equipment operator, trims  weeds and hedges at Air Force Materiel Command headquarters.

Jordan Dillon, an 88th Civil Engineer Squadron equipment operator, trims weeds and hedges at Air Force Materiel Command headquarters (Building 262) on July 15 as part of his regular weekly duties at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Contributed photo)

88th Civil Engineer Squadron personnel cuts grass in a Brick Quarters common area.

Ronald Bowman of the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron rides a Toro 5900 series mower with 15-foot cutting deck while cutting grass in a Brick Quarters common area July 15 as part of his weekly route at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Contributed photo)

88th Civil Engineer Squadron personnel cuts grass in a Brick Quarters common area.

Ronald Bowman of the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron rides a Toro 5900 series mower with 15-foot cutting deck while cutting grass in a Brick Quarters common area July 15 as part of his weekly route at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Contributed photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - During summer months, containing the grass and plant life on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base becomes an around-the-clock task. It’s a task the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron has the ability to combat.

“The crews handle each of their responsibilities with extreme detail,” said Scott Vincent, 88th Civil Engineer Group director.

The responsibilities include Area A and B crews combining to maintain 6,013 acres, or 13 square miles.

In a 40-hour week, personnel head out in 20-member teams for a total of 800 work hours, performing essentially the same task to mow down their assigned areas across the installation, 88 CES officials said.

While the Area A and B teams work their respective portions, another team handles the crucial assignment of maintaining the Wright-Patterson AFB flightline.

“A specific team is dedicated to maintenance of the flightline,” said Harold Honeycutt, equipment and grounds supervisor for 88 CES. “One airfield team comprised of three tractors, each with a 20-foot pull-behind deck and a large mower with lights, trims out grassy areas near buildings. The process is a two-week rotation for completion.”

Flightline upkeep requires great attention to detail, base officials said. The grass must stay between 7 and 14 inches high, according to safety regulations, to keep wildlife from getting out of control and becoming a hazard to aircraft entering and leaving.

“That is the optimal height to prevent birds and other animals that might be dangerous to aircraft from congregating,” Vincent said. “We keep it this height by a combination of timing when we mow and adjusting the height of the mowers.”

Across the entire base, ground crews handle weed-eating around every sign, utility box, pole and street corner. They also cut grass at Air Force Materiel Command headquarters, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Child Development Centers, Brick Quarters common areas; the Arnold, Taylor and Fisher houses; and Wright-Patterson Club.

Crews are responsible for the outside appearance of not only Area A and B, but also the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and Properties at Wright Field military housing, to include the CDCs, ballfields, chapel and swimming pool.

“We try to encourage our ground crews to take pride in the work they do,” said Bryan Spiller, Area B grounds supervisor for 88 CES. “When you arrive at that gate in the morning, the first thing you see is the grounds. I believe the condition of the grounds can help set the mood for the day.

“Knowing every day that the grounds at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are the first thing people will see in the morning, and the last thing they see going home at night, is what keeps our crews going.”

Grass maintenance on the installation generally runs from early May to late fall, depending on the amount of rainfall and temperature. In the winter, the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron shifts its focus to reconstituting grounds equipment after a long summer season and preparing for snow removal.