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C-5 conversion process draws to close with completion of taxiway extension

Contractors spray paint lines onto the edge of the newly aligned taxiway at the 167th Airlift Wing, Shepherd Field, Martinsburg WV, July 25, 2012.  Final touches are being made to the taxiway, which was recently realigned and extended; the final C-5 conversion construction project at the base. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Contractors spray paint lines onto the edge of the newly aligned taxiway at the 167th Airlift Wing, Shepherd Field, Martinsburg WV, July 25, 2012. Final touches are being made to the taxiway, which was recently realigned and extended; the final C-5 conversion construction project at the base. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Martinsburg, W.Va. -- Blame Mother Nature.
If it hadn't been for her, the final phase of the 167th Airlift Wing's C-5 conversion process would have been completed by now. Instead the steady rains which saturated Martinsburg in April and May of last year delayed completion of the C-5 taxiway extension. Completion of the final phase of the base's conversion process is expected to wrap up by the end of this month.
"This is the last military construction project for the base's C-5 bed down," said Maj. Paul Henry, the Wing's deputy base civil engineer. The Wing is currently home to 11 C-5 aircraft.
The contract for the final phase of the airfield's conversion was awarded in the fall of 2010 to Atlantic Contracting & Material Co., Inc., based in Upper Marlboro, Md.
"We really didn't start actual active construction until April of 2011," Henry said.
Adding: "We didn't move mountains, but we moved a lot of earth."
The price tag of the last upgrade to the airfield was just shy of $10 million with the overall four-phase, half-decade plus undertaking costing approximately $50 million.
Under the final phase, the taxiway was realigned and widened by 15 feet.
"It's now 75 feet of taxiway with 25 foot paved shoulders on each side," Henry noted.
New LED (Light-emitting Diode) lights were installed on the existing portion of the taxiway to the west allowing for the entire taxiway to be illuminated, with the new energy saving lights. Originally the project was slated for hot mix asphalt to be used for pavement, but concrete was used instead. Henry said the upgrade to concrete did not run the project over budget and is more practical.
"It's a rigid pavement versus a flexible pavement, the lifespan of (the concrete pavement) is a lot longer," Henry said. He noted that as long as it's maintained, the concrete pavement can last for the next 20 years. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 cubic yards of concrete was placed.
The extended taxiway also allows for C-5 pilots to launch their aircraft without having to make a U turn.
"They can just go right off and launch off the extended overrun take-off area," he said. "It will save a lot of fuel and a lot of wear and tear on the landing gear."
The base access road and taxiway Hotel were extended to the realigned taxiway Alpha and rehabilitated.
"Bill Walkup (manager of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport) affectionately named the access road Henry Way many years ago during snow removal operations," said the Wing's deputy base civil engineer.
Henry said completion of the final phase of the conversion project will "definitely improve the quality of the airfield itself."
And one man has had a hand in every stage of the multi-phase C-5 conversion process with regards to the airfield itself.
"Rick McLaughlin has been involved in every airfield project that we have done," Henry said. "He's my right hand man. He's out there day in and day out."
McLaughlin, a native of Berkeley Springs who now calls Martinsburg home, has close ties with the base. His brother retired as a C-130 maintenance crew chief from the 167th Airlift Wing in 2002. During that time McLaughlin got to know Lt. Col. Bill Burkhart who spearheaded the base's overall C-5 conversion process before retiring.
As an inspector for Atkins Global based in Nashville, Tenn., which designed all four phases of the upgrade to the airfield, McLaughlin was tasked with ensuring work on the three runway projects and taxiway extension were done to specification.
He arrived on the job in May of 2006 with plenty of experience. He was an engineer at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Hospital from 1981 to 1986. For the next 20 years he oversaw the revamping of Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., before landing in his current role.
He refers to himself as a "loaner to the Guard."
Albeit a very instrumental component when it comes to understanding the intricate detail of the many facets that comprise the airfield's overall upgrade.
Yet one fact is really quite simple when put in context.
"The primary runway length is the same as it was when we started - 7,815 feet," McLaughlin said. However, the 2008 east extension project added another 1,000 feet of pavement that can only be used for takeoff to the west and landing to the east.
He noted the total length hasn't changed. It went through phases when the runway length had to be reduced because of construction but the refurbishing did not reduce it.
McLaughlin said each phase of upgrading the airfield had its unique challenges.
The first phase of refurbishing the west side of the runway met with a massive amount of rock removal.
"The entire west end was just a nightmare concerning rock removal," he said.
McLaughlin said the four-phase conversion process of the airfield has been challenging, but one that he wouldn't have missed.
Even though it took longer than expected.
"To be honest I didn't think I would be here this long," he said with a laugh.
McLaughlin said he told Burkhart he would be available to help with the airfield conversion.
"I just didn't think it would be for six years," he said with a smile. "I thought two, maybe three years."
Adding: "It's good to see it (the upgrade of the airfield) finally coming to a close," McLaughlin added.