Civil engineers have global impact in 2010
By Staff Sgt. Ivyann Castillo, 171st Public Affairs
/ Published September 27, 2010
Sept. 27, 2010 -- In 2010, 171st Civil Engineers deployed personnel to numerous locations for both real world and training missions.
Last year, the unit was initially notified that the whole squadron would be deployed for a 179-day rotation, which is the standard for civil engineers. When the mission requirement for full involuntary mobilization was dropped, the requirements decreased significantly, but at times less than 30% of the unit was at home station.
The 171 CES mission includes not only the traditional skills of constructing, operating, maintaining, and reconstructing bases, but also Fire and Emergency Services and Emergency Management Operations.
"We had 23 members deployed to several locations around the world," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Sampson, 171 CES, Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) Manager.
"Aside from our deployers, we also had 46 Engineers attending our required Silver Flag quadrennial training."
Civil Engineers sent a broad range from experienced members with nearly four decades of experience to first-term Airmen. "The young troops learn much about their job in civil engineering and gain much experience during real world deployments," said Sampson.
Real world deployments and field training for 171 CES aren't fun in the sun. "We often go to austere environments--to the desert and in field conditions," said Sampson. "Civil Engineers are the ones who are expected to establish and maintain operating sites, so when they first arrive to new locations, there may be very little on the ground."
Nearly one-fourth of squadron members were sent throughout the Middle East. Of those who deployed in this capacity, six Airmen were first-time deployers. They were sent to provide power generation, electrical support, field surveying, base planning, water systems management, liquid fuels maintenance, and fire protection in five nations. Some Airmen were redeployed to three different countries during their rotation.
In August, aircraft from 171 ARW transported the civil engineers to Silver Flag training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The engineers received a week of classroom and hands on training with contingency equipment that is not available at home station.
This was followed by a capstone exercise very similar to what the rest of the Wing experiences during an ORI with two days of almost non-stop activities including base attacks, airfield damage repair operations, water contamination, power outages, hazardous material events, and even live fire airplane crashes.
However, as Lt. Col. Robert Tatro, commander, 171 CES, noted, "We were very fortunate to be tasked to the Ramstein site. We still sleep in tents and eat MREs for two meals a day, but unlike our past training at Tyndall Air Force Base we were able to leave the training site for a few hours each night to use the dining facility and BX complex on the main base."
The training received at home station and exercises like Silver Flag prepare members for deployments like augmenting a Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers, RED HORSE, as a small group of heavy equipment operators is currently doing.
These individuals received involuntary mobilization orders for nine months to allow for pre-deployment Combat Skills Training prior to serving 179 days boots on the ground in theater. With RED HORSE being a theater command controlled asset, these people are not assigned to any particular base and will be moved around the theater where they are needed most.
Tatro said, "It has been a very busy year and we still have a lot of work to do for the UCI in December. We won't have all of our personnel back from deployment until next spring. We already received our FY 2011 training deployment tasking to perform expeditionary construction of multiple facilities for an urban assault range in support of PACOM requirements at Camp Richardson, Alaska, and for Firefighters to provide Fire and Emergency Services support at Dover Air Force Base."
The 171 CES are hard workers who keep installations running, in-garrison and globally. At times, they can be overlooked until power is lost or buildings are too hot, but they keep base missions moving forward through their dedication to duty.