Reservists train, give back to Americans

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brian McGloin
  • 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air Force reservists from the 433rd Civil Engineering Squadron here left the Lone Star State for a couple of weeks in June to perform humanitarian work for the Red Lake band of Chippewa at the Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minn.

In the crisp, spring air of the North Star State, the 433rd CES worked at two separate sites a few miles apart on the reservation doing two vastly different jobs as part of their Innovation Readiness Training. Through IRT projects, reservists are helping communities while performing military training.

One team built three two-bedroom homes, to be transported by truck about 30 miles away. The other team worked with the 446th CES from Lewis-McChord Joint Base, Wash., to install 12-inch water pipe 10 feet in the ground, connecting the water systems of two small communities and providing the water supply for new fire hydrants.

Project manager Chief Master Sgt. Bill Markgraf from the 446th CES said the IRT work saved the reservation about $850,000 in labor costs while providing Air Force reservists valuable and rare hands-on experience in their jobs. The reservation provided the building materials for both projects such as lumber, water pipe and fire hydrants, and the re433rd CES and 446th CES provided the labor.

"It's a win-win situation," Chief Markgraf said.

The home-building team worked in smaller, more specialized but loosely organized teams. The electricians wired the homes, and the plumbers installed pipe and fittings after the carpenters framed the walls.

All of the work was done according to local and national building codes. The workers follow safety rules, much like construction sites in the civilian world. Except for the workers wearing Airman Battle Uniforms and white hard hats, the construction site looked like any other building site. A closer examination, however, revealed more.

The sub-floor of one home in early state of completion has some odd seams in the plywood near one of the edges. It's not a mistake or sloppy work; it was done intentionally.

"We have to utilize all the resources we have," said Tech. Sgt. Frank Mora, a carpenter with the 433rd CES.

Sergeant Mora said the sub-floors were held down with a strong construction adhesive in addition to more traditional nails to make the floor stronger.

"Guaranteed no squeaking," he said.

"We were on the roof doing shingles," said Master Sgt. Curtis Wilson, 433rd CES. "Everyone does a little bit of everything but each has their own specialty."

Sergeant Mora, a computer specialist who works for a civilian firm, said it was good to get away from his office cubicle and to see Airmen getting hands-on training. As different as both projects were, they both shared similarities.

Chief Markgraf said production was a little slower than full-time construction work because it was a training environment.

"These guys are doing well for the amount of training they had," he said. "None of these guys do it on the outside."

Chief Markgraf said the work would install about 12,000 feet of pipe connecting two small communities to a better water supply instead of their existing well water, which contains too much iron.

"It's kind of a dual-purpose line," he said.

In addition to fire hydrants every 500 feet, the water main has valves to isolate sections to allow for repairs or additions later.

To aid in adding to the system later, 8-inch taps were installed where housing divisions may be built in the future, making tapping into the system much easier.