JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- More than 40 Air National Guards members from the 149th Civil Engineer Squadron, a sub-unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, participated in a deployed-for-training exercise July 9 through 21, at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, Canada.
During the exercise, the guardsmen worked on a variety of projects, including the construction of a cabin, softball field, soccer field, greenhouse, ice rink, air conditioning units installation and electrical work.
The mission for the 149th CES during the exercise was to extensively train in the areas of structures, heavy equipment operation, electrical, emergency management and more. The projects were also geared toward improving the available amenities of the local community on base, where there are nearly 100 military and civilian personnel, and the nearest city is approximately seven hours away.
“The biggest focus here is morale and welfare,” said Captain Jonathan Brotherton of the Canadian Air Force and the real property operations officer at CFB Goose Bay. “Because we’re in a remote area, we don’t have too much, and there’s not a lot around so we have to be self-sufficient. We really have to do the best we can to try to build up the base and make it better for the families because you're going to be useless at work if you’re worried about your home life and how your family is coping with living in this area.”
One of the most popular recreation facilities in the area is a camping site called Camp Alexander, where the 149th CES worked to build a new cabin to replace the previous one that had become uninhabitable.
“When the cabin got condemned, it was a big deal that we didn’t have it anymore because there’s really not much else here,” said Sergeant Brad Nisbet of the Canadian Air Force and a search and rescue technician stationed at CFB Goose Bay.
“Many people were talking about how the Americans were coming to build us a new one because it’s very important to our community. It’s where we all come together.” added Nisbet
Surrounded by wilderness, the cabin will be a place where residents can camp in safety, without the fear of bears and relax in nature away from their living quarters.
Aside from training, part of the reason why the projects were tasked to the 149th CES is that the base doesn’t have the workforce or budget to spare toward building the amenities.
“It’s about 24 hours to the nearest metro area where we get materials driven in from, and it costs a lot,” said Brotherton. “We sat down and tried to think of projects that could be done within a short time frame, designed quickly and have materials ordered and delivered in time. Also, just having military people working on the projects gives them a little more of a push, and you get more love and appreciation of the projects and a lot more attention to detail.”
For the civil engineers, training opportunities like this allow them to connect with their allied counterparts while receiving realistic on-the-job experience different from what they would typically get from technical school or regularly scheduled drills.
“When we get to help out with cool projects like this and build people all sorts of stuff, it just shows how much we can give back to the community,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Corral, a heavy equipment operator with the 149th CES. “What we’re doing out here also sharpens our skills and trains us to do what we’d actually be doing if we go into any kind of serious deployment. It enables our troops to be ready to go as soon as they’re tasked, so nobody has to show them every little thing to do. They can get out, do the job and be successful at it.”
Upon successful completion of the cabin and other facilities, the local community will have many more options on how to spend their time and enjoy their duty assignment.
“Knowing that we are about to have a facility in which we can bring families or do squadron or wing events is beyond words,” said Master Corporal Iain Cleaton of the Canadian Air Force and a training and standards flight engineer stationed at CFB Goose Bay. “It’s a necessity for us to be able to go out and have a place where we can function outside of our work. The 149th CES is building something professionally and properly that will have longevity and maintain morale for years to come.”