News: VTANG civil engineers return from Afghanistan
Story by Airman 1st Class Dana Alyce-Schwarz
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -Members of the 158th Fighter Wing Civil Engineering Squadron recently returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan where they worked with the Army in a joint service environment to maintain Bagram Air field.
While deployed from November through July, the Vermont Air National Guard’s civil engineers worked on projects ranging from electrical and building maintenance to upgrading the power grid and removing snow from the flight line.
The primary focus of the deployment was to ensure the base operated at maximum efficiency, said Chief Master Sgt. John Talcott, the chief enlisted manager for the VTANG civil engineering squadron who participated in the mission.
When the airstrip was damaged by incoming fire the engineers would have to fill craters with gravel or concrete, replace the guide lights, and repair any electrical damage. Skill and training was essential for the crew to fix the runway quickly to avoid delaying priority flights.
Another project was to upgrade and improve the electrical grid and balance the power requirements as some areas of the base did not have adequate power to meet their needs.
“Security force members were using Humvees to power some of their gear,” said Talcott. “We were able to go and hook them up with a generator or use commercial power that was out there. Our plan in Afghanistan was to make a lasting difference on the base, and we were able to accomplish that.”
Ensuring that security forces could defend the base was essential as Afghanistan is still a hostile area. Every day airmen remained alert to the possibility of an attack and at night listened for the alarm of incoming fire.
“We got attacked quite a few times,” said Senior Airman Luke Wamsley, a military high-voltage lineman. “You’d hear the sound of the bombs being dropped and the shots as we returned fire.”
As their deployment ended, the engineers were looking forward to coming back to Vermont. Returning home requires adjustment as the service members work to settle back into their home routines and drill schedules. Taking an extended tour is a good experience for members of the Guard, Talcott said. It serves as a change of pace from the traditional drill weekend and allows guardsmen a chance to apply their military career skills in the field.