ONTARIO, Canada – Guard members from the 171st Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineer Squadron took the opportunity to gain job-specific training that cannot be acquired at home station. They deployed to the 8th Wing Royal Canadian Armed Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario, June 30 to July 14.
To maintain proficiency in the career field of engineering, the Guard members are required to perform many on-the-job tasks annually. Fortunately, the NATO alliance member needed some infrastructure repairs that the 171st engineers could accomplish and complete for their necessary training.
This was the first time since 1995 that the 171st CE deployed to Canada but according to Chief Master Sgt. Charles Stoyer, 171st CE Chief of Operations, it won’t be the last. “We enjoyed working with our Canadian counterparts in Trenton and we believe our Airmen were able to get some excellent training,” said Stoyer. “We deployed to Canada expecting to only participate in a few projects, but (we) were able to get involved in much more than that.”
The Guard members were vital in two bathroom renovations of a 110-year-old armory in Belleville, Ontario, the digging of a trench for a permanent electrical power supply and installation of an outdoor electrical panel. They also dug out a 150-foot trench for power at another site; then dug, formed, and poured concrete to support an air conditioner unit. Guardsmen used GPS point establishment to map out facility locations. They performed airfield arresting system maintenance and the fire and emergency services teamed up with the Canadian Fire Services to conduct top-notch training.
“Due to limited resources, infrastructure, and the 171st mission, our Airmen don’t get the required training that we require. To meet these needs, we deploy for training,” said Stoyer.
Two Air National Guard units deployed to the 8th Wing for CE training one after the other. North Dakota and Pennsylvania ANG were able to foster relations with the Royal Canadian Air Force. “Even though we are in different countries, they have the same problems we have. Manpower, it has and always will be an issue,” said Stoyer.
Deployments for training give ANG units more than job-specific training; they allow the Airmen to build camaraderie. It’s difficult for Guard units to build a report while only performing duty one weekend a month. During the trip to Canada, Guardsmen participated in chartered fishing trips, golf outings, an MLB game, and other group activities. The squadron participated in intermural softball and soccer games, a squadron party with their Canadian counterparts, and often found themselves immersed within the local culture.
“Morale is a top priority for us in CE. We are looking for members that are capable of performing the duties required of them, but we are also looking for people that want to be here,” said Stoyer. “It’s more fun for us when we can go to work, get the job done and do it alongside a group of friends. During these trips, we become more like a family.”