GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- A team of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Midwest employees and other tenant command Sailors and staff worked non-stop Jan. 31 - Feb. 2 and again Feb. 4 - 6 to clear roads, parking lots and sidewalks at Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL)--as they have for more than 20 other significant snow events here so far this winter.
The 30-person Public Works Department (PWD) Great Lakes snow removal team clears the base's 56 miles of roadway, 46 acres of sidewalks and 143 parking lots to ensure that training at the Navy's only boot camp and at follow-on "A" and "C" schools is not interrupted.
"To many people, 'snow day' might mean a day off work or school, but it means something totally different for the snow team," said George Patrick, PWD Great Lakes Base Support Vehicles and Equipment Branch (BSVE) manager. "We're here to keep the base open, and we keep at it from well before the first flakes fall until everything is finally cleared."
Patrick monitors weather forecasts and alerts PWD team members as well as representatives from tenant commands on base whenever a snow event is expected. Before the snow starts, the team, which is divided into two shifts and includes motor vehicle operators, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, riggers, dispatchers and construction trade workers, put their normal work largely on hold and focus on snow removal.
Typically, the team mobilizes one hour before snow is expected to begin. The 15 BSVE members of the team focus on clearing roads first, then parking lots, rotating in 12-hour shifts until all areas are clear. Meanwhile, the other 15 members of the team, from the PWD's Facility Management and Sustainment Branch, concentrate on clearing parking lots and sidewalks, particularly at Recruit Training Command.
"Unlike some bases where people mostly drive to work, Great Lakes has thousands of students who have to march or walk to class every day," said Patrick.
Snow removal means not only plowing snow, but also preventing or removing treacherous icy buildup, which can lead to falls and collisions. Depending on the kind of wintry weather expected, the team uses road salt or combinations of brine, a salt water solution that can also be heated and combined with beet juice or calcium chloride and sprayed on roads and sidewalks.
Snow plow drivers must have at least eight hours of rest before operating their equipment, which includes two one-ton plow trucks, four five-ton plow trucks, three plow-equipped front end loaders and a variety of pickup trucks equipped with plows and salt or brine dispensers.
Some team members must also respond to winter-related emergencies on base such as water main breaks. During several days of extreme cold this winter, PWD Great Lakes has also kept an emergency repair team on base overnight to respond to building heat and water outages caused by the below-zero temperatures.
While the PWD clears large areas on base, self-help personnel, Recruits and Sailors work on areas immediately outside their buildings.
"Naval Station Great Lakes' 1st Lieutenant snow team was out in full force during the recent snowfall that fell across the Great Lakes," said Lt. j.g. Jaime Ochoa, NSGL 1st Lieutenant. "Our five team members worked during the whole day and late into the night clearing more than eight miles of sidewalk. We take great pride in meeting our responsibilities."
"Our snow removal team has done a terrific job keeping up with the conditions this winter," said Capt. William Bulis, NSGL commanding officer. "They've kept the roads open. They've kept our berthing, training and support buildings going during extreme conditions. And they've allowed us to continue training our Navy's newest Sailors so they can meet the needs of the fleet. I couldn't be more proud of them."