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Connecticut Air Guardsmen secure vital readiness training

By 1st Lt. Jennifer Pierce | 103rd Airlift Wing, Bradley Air National Guard Base | April 19, 2019

WAIMANALO, Hawaii – The sounds of demolition and new construction April 8 interrupted the tranquility at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.

Airmen of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron took the lead for the Air National Guard and teamed up with construction technicians of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 19 Wing Comox to begin a seven-week long deployment for training.

This deployment is an annual collaborative effort between the National Guard Bureau and Bellows Air Force Station’s Detachment 2, 18th Force Support Squadron that began in 2017.

The Bellows DFT provides Air National Guard members the opportunity to receive vital readiness training and work with units from other states as well as international partners. This year, Connecticut’s 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron, Maine’s 101st Civil Engineer Squadron, and South Carolina’s 169th Civil Engineer Squadron will rotate through Bellows along with construction technicians from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 19 Wing Comox and 14 Wing Greenwood. The training all units receive during this DFT is vital to the overall readiness of each unit.

“The [National Guard Bureau] sees this DFT as value-added training,” said Master Sgt. Brad Wilson, National Guard Bureau DFT operations and logistics manager. “Not only can they complete upgrade training, they receive contingency skills training as well.”

This training is comprised of multiple construction projects throughout Bellows AFS, which include building demolition, new building construction, tree removal, concrete installation, road work and HVAC maintenance.

“The training opportunities are great here,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Kelley, 169th Civil Engineer Squadron and Bellows DFT officer in charge. “Just in terms of the actual construction we are doing, we are completing full-scale, ground-up projects. A lot of the [civil engineer teams] are involved; they’re all getting their hands in the construction.”

The training for the Bellows DFT, however, began long before the 103rd’s arrival to Bellows.

“The planning process required for doing work like this off station has a lot of touch points with what we would go through in a deployed environment,” said Lt. Col. Andy Kelly, 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron commander. “If we ever got tapped to go to an environment where there wasn’t any infrastructure, the planning for this helps us in that mindset. The process of movement, coming out here mil air and determining what we need to take, also has touch points in our readiness mission. Our mission when we deploy is to do the same types of tasks we are doing here; we are grading, we are laying concrete, doing demolition, and construction. These skill sets we are working on, learning and perfecting over here are the same skill sets we would use in a deployed environment.”

Working in tandem with the Royal Canadian Air Force and other Guard civil engineer units also provided an extra dimension of training for the 103rd during this DFT.

“One of the biggest benefits of working outside of our own group is just seeing other ways that things can be done, and sharing things we are very good at with those units,” said Kelly. “Reality is when we are deployed, we’re not going to be together as an entire squadron. Making connections with the other units is beneficial from a long-term training and readiness standpoint.”

Ultimately, this training is a mutually beneficial way for the Air National Guard to receive vital readiness training while assisting an active duty Air Force detachment.

“My predecessor originally reached out to NGB for help completing projects at Bellows because it’s a great training opportunity,” said Staff Sgt. Craig Enomoto, 18th Force Support Squadron operation management NCOIC. “There’s typically only eight of us here to take care of all the CE work orders throughout the base, and sometimes there are things that we can’t get to, so we ask the Guard units to come out for some great training and help us close out some of our work tasks.”

One of the most significant projects is the demolition and rebuild of the Bellows AFS gym explicitly designated for the Airmen assigned to Bellows.

“The gym was originally supposed to be just a repair, but when we opened up the walls, we found extensive termite damage beyond saving the actual building,” said Enomoto. “If we didn’t have a gym here, a lot of our guys wouldn’t be able to work out and lift weights. We love working out and staying fit. It keeps our morale up and ensures we stay fit throughout the year to exceed the Air Force PFT standards.”

“Being able to see results that are impactful to our partners at the DFT location provides an extra layer of gratification and sense of accomplishment for our troops,” said Kelly. “I think being in the Guard, and having mostly traditional folks as part of our squadron, we bring a host of skills and expertise that our folks have on the outside. For us to be able to come and showcase those skills that a lot of our folks are doing in their civilian jobs, then having the results benefit the bigger Air Force is a win-win for everybody.”