Kentucky Air Guardsmen help eliminate flooding in unique fashion

Story by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Tim Baker of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron and Master Sgt. Greg Stephens of the 116th Air Control Wing position detonation cord and C4 explosive to blow up unoccupied beaver dams at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., on April 27, 2014. (Courtesy photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A destructive force made its way through the swamps of Georgia, bottling up water flow and flooding parts of Robins Air Force Base. The enemy at hand: the American beaver.

Answering the call for action were Staff Sgts. Dustin Turner and Tim Baker, Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

The Airmen, who are more accustomed to defusing Improvised Explosive Devices or blowing up unstable munitions, applied their wartime skills to the beaver dams instead, eliminating the unoccupied structures with C4 explosives.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, beavers begin their ritual of chewing up trees and building dams each spring. That has the cascading effect of destroying natural waterways and other animal habitats.

In the case of the beaver assault on Robins Air Force Base, the eight dams — some as big as 60 to 75 feet long — were causing water to pool in streams that no longer flowed naturally. That led to a rise in water-fowl population and impaired base efforts to log tall trees in the forest near the end of runways, resulting in hazardous flight conditions.

“The beaver dams were impeding flight operations,” Turner explained. “Because the area is very swampy, heavy equipment couldn’t get in there to remove the dams, so the best option was to use explosives.”

To restore the natural water flow and bring flight operations back to normal, the two specialists — with the help of Senior Master Sgt. John Bell, Master Sgt. Greg Stephens and Tech. Sgt. Barry Duffield of the 116th Air Control Wing — drilled holes in the empty dams, filled them with explosives and blew them up.

“We were excited to get the call to help because this isn’t normally what we get to do,” Turner said. “We got the chance to get a little dirty and see terrain that we don’t get to see.”

In the event the beavers renew their aggressive campaign against the base, the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD specialists will be ready to take on the challenge.

“It’s a little out of our daily mission, so it’s a good training opportunity for us and a great way to lend assistance to another unit,” Turner said. “We would welcome the chance to help them out again.”

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