163rd ARW civil engineers strengthen border
By Maj. Brenda Hendricksen , 163rd ARW Public Affairs
/ Published August 30, 2006
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. --
Supporting Operation Jump Start, 27 Air National Guard Civil Engineers from the 163rd Air Refueling Wing here deployed to the U.S. border with Mexico near San Diego Aug. 5-19 for two weeks of annual training.
Border construction projects headed by the National Guard Bureau have been ongoing for approximately 11 years under the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) operation. When Operation Jump Start kicked off in June, IRT was put on hold and the new operation temporarily took top priority. Both operations were put in place to strengthen the border region in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
"Originally, the Civil Engineering Squadron (CES) was scheduled to go to RAF Mildenhall, England," said 163rd CES Commander Lt. Col. Mark Moritz. "The construction projects we were tasked with at the border ended up providing a better mix of training than we would have had in England."
The first site involved setting up more than a mile of underground electrical conduits for security lighting and surveillance camera utility poles. A combination of electricians and power production specialists worked on the site.
"Working underground is new to most of us," said Tech. Sgt. Ed Adame, electrician.
"The team I work with has a great working relationship," added Staff Sgt. Fidel Gonzalez, power production specialist. "Those leading really know what they are doing."
The second site involved finishing construction on a silt trap - a concrete drain used to separate sediment from the water. Three structural specialists and three heating and air conditioning specialists (HVAC) worked on the project.
"Because of lack of air conditioning projects at the border, the HVAC troops rolled up their sleeves and gained a new skill working with the structural specialists," said Lt. Col. Moritz.
Site Supervisor Tech. Sgt. Karl Childress acted as an instructor to his crew. He was the only wing member at the site with prior construction experience. "The training has been great for the HVAC troops. They are learning skills outside their AFSCs," said Sergeant Childress.
The third, and final, project involved raising the height of an access road to a storm water collection basin. Engineering assistants calculated the grade elevations for raising the existing road eight feet.
This site offered the best opportunity for joint training, according to Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Myers, site supervisor. The project involved obtaining a vertical control elevation survey. For training purposes the group also did a horizontal and topographical survey.
"The project was two-fold. It was an actual mission where training was being accomplished," said Chief Myers.
Tech. Sgt. Ray Linares, an engineering assistant, took the opportunity to train three Guardsmen who were working on their 5-level training.
"The job is a wonderful training opportunity. The troops seized the opportunity to get valuable training," he said.
Wing heavy equipment operators also worked at the site.
"It's nice having people telling me that I'm doing a great job rather than telling me to hurry up," said Master Sgt. Earl Rankin, heavy equipment branch chief and bulldozer operator, who works as a civilian in the same career field. "In the civilian world, the concentration is more on production numbers rather than training."
"Overall, I feel Civil Engineering accomplished what it needed to," said 163rd CES Operations Officer Capt. Heidi Gibson. "Training was our objective and the three sites we were tasked with provided outstanding AFSC training."