Citizen Airmen continue 19-year connection with the community
By Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann, 168th Wing
/ Published October 06, 2016
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- With falling winter temperatures and snow in the forecast, Airmen from the 168th Wing's Top III Council here knew they had to act fast before their window closed the chance to uphold their 19-year history of participation with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Adopt-A-Highway program.
"Your group has had its adopted mile of the Richardson Highway [Mile 353-354] since May 1997," said Betsy Hess, publications specialist with the Northern Region Public Information Office.
Eielson AFB and Fairbanks are connected by 26 miles of the Richardson Highway, and according to Hess there are at least 13 different groups from Eielson who are active in the program.
Master Sgt. Pete Smith, repair and reclamation shop chief with the wing's maintenance squadron, put out the call for volunteers.
"You, your buddy and anyone from your work area who is free to come on down and give a hand," said Smith.
On the day of the cleanup Smith had more than 20 Airmen and family members on the crew.
"This one won't take too long as the highway looks pretty clear, and please remember to wear sensible shoes as you will be walking on uneven gravel surfaces," said Smith.
Hess said that volunteers are 11 or older for safety reasons.
With cars passing at 60 mph within feet of the volunteers it is easy to understand why those younger are not working along the highway. Richardson Highway speeds that close might as well be 100.
North Pole is just 12 miles north of Eielson and where the Top III Council's mile of highway begins.
The DOT & PF provides safety training resources, safety vests, and trash bags. Groups agree to remove litter from their adopted stretch a minimum of three times a year.
"I was doing this for a lot of years before I got smart and realized I didn't have to bend over to pick the stuff up," said Chief Master Sgt. Phil Hunt, the wing's command chief, as he wielded his industrial-strength grabber.
It took the group of volunteers less than an hour to complete the cleanup of their section of the highway, filling up the trailer connected to Smith's pickup with bright yellow trash bags and a few large pieces of debris.
"Yeah, that went pretty quick," said Smith. This is one of the best things we do, and people from the wing really like coming out here, but it is already starting to get cold and they're forecasting snow, so we really couldn't have waited much longer."