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AFIT CE instructor and his teammate share their experiences as deployed airfield pavement evaluators
Posted Monday, January 29, 2018


Capt Miles Ryan (standing) and TSgt Ruben Hernandez (sitting) are performing Dynamic Cone Penetrometer tests on a runway at Baghdad International Airport.  The tests were done at night to avoid high summer temperatures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt Zach Stanton)

Capt Miles Ryan, an instructor in AFIT’s Civil Engineer School, is originally from Red Wing, Minnesota.  He joined the Air Force as a Civil Engineer in 2009.  He is currently on his first deployment in Qatar.  “It has been a great deployment and it has provided us a lot of opportunities to travel throughout the AOR and see various sites and airfields in numerous countries.”

TSgt Ruben Hernandez is originally from Dell City, Texas.  He has been an Engineering Assistant in the Air Force for more than 16 years and has been deployed 7 times.  Currently assigned to the 49th Civil Engineering Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, he runs the construction management section and has a heavy background in construction and construction surveying.  He has also served as a Contingency Engineer Instructor at Silver Flag, Tyndall AFB, Florida.  In this role he taught other civil engineers how to set up bare base operations and planning. 

Deployed since July 2017, Ryan and Hernandez are a two man Airfield Pavement Evaluation team.  They receive requests to survey airfields for usability and durability.  The survey is two parts.  First they drill into the pavement to determine if the pavement and the soil underneath are strong enough to sustain current operations or to bring in new airframes.  Next, they visually inspect the surface for sharp edges or excessive deterioration that would damage aircraft.  “Our reports estimate how many operations can be performed with various aircraft before the pavement fails.  They also identify other areas of concern, such as excessive FOD. We help quantify the risk for aircraft operations and provide the operations community better decision clarity” says Ryan.

Ryan and Hernandez are assigned to the USAF Central Command’s A7 Directorate which focuses on civil engineering and contracting.  They serve on the staff of the AFCENT Commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.  Their home base is AFCENT’s Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.  “This is the hub for AFCENT and it allows us to see how the tactical work we did in the field impacts bigger operations,” said Ryan.  TSgt Hernandez agreed adding “I receive instant gratification on the work we do along with seeing the impact of how the entire mission revolves around the airfield.  We will do a mission and within a couple of weeks we can see how our evaluations steered the military on a decision.”

The teaching experience that both men have has been very valuable during this deployment.  On nearly every evaluation, they are joined by others from the base including other civil engineers and air field managers.  Ryan and Hernandez are able to teach them through the survey process.  “Building the expertise and teaching people throughout the AOR helps them help themselves so they can identify pavement issues without having to have us back out,” said Ryan.

When they aren’t in the field, Ryan and Hernandez serve as consultants and field multiple requests from airfield managers and civil engineers to help troubleshoot issues and make recommendations.  They may not have all the answers, but their experience and network provide the resources to address the questions.  “We receive a lot of questions around designing and constructing new features on airfields like a new apron or taxiway or replacement work on existing pavement.  The breadth and depth of questions we receive can be pretty intense.  We are expected to know the answer or find out really quickly.  Coming from AFIT’s Civil Engineer School, I am able to reach out to other instructors – like the instructors who teach how to design airfield pavements – it’s a good reach back for us because we don’t always have all the answers,” said Ryan.

TSgt Ruben Hernandez (forefront) and Capt Miles Ryan (background) are surveying the extent of a depression in a runway in Qayyarah-West, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt Tim Larson)