News: Fresh BEEF arrives at the 474th
Story by Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Service members from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Tactical Fighter Wing, along with elements of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Air Wing, Illinois Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing and the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, arrived recently to comprise the 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
The new units replaced service members from the 130th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard and will serve a six-month tour in support of JTF Guantanamo.
"We had about a week with the previous unit for a handover," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gene Vaughn. "They showed us what they did and the methods to get it done."
JTF Guantanamo's 474th ECES is responsible for construction and sustainment of Camp Justice and the Expeditionary Legal Complex in support of military commissions at the naval station.
Teams of engineers from the 474th ECES maintain generators and electricity, provide carpentry skills, pest control services, utilities maintenance, heavy equipment operation and liquid fuel support. Administrative, work control and operations teams work behind the scenes to coordinate all of the projects.
When commissions are not happening at Guantanamo, the squadron, also known as the Base Emergency Engineering Force, or BEEF, stays busy by completing projects around the naval station and JTF to improve the conditions for the service members and detainees.
Currently, the engineers are working to build a soccer field at Camp America and repairing flooring and distribution panels in the ELC.
Many of the National Guardsmen are experienced engineers who work similar jobs in a civilian capacity or work on a full-time basis for the National Guard. The Guardsmen from Arkansas are also fortunate to have equipment and assets at their home station.
"In Arkansas, we are one of four regional training sites," said Vaughn. "We have all of the BEEF assets and equipment."
Some of their newer service members and those from other states may not have the opportunity to work with the equipment on a regular basis. This six-month deployment will provide an opportunity for younger service members to gain valuable experience and for the more experienced service members to re-familiarize themselves with newer equipment.
"We don't always have the chance to see some of the newer equipment," said Air Force Master Sgt. Frank Vallsclelosreyes. "It's different when you only have one weekend a month to work with it."
Out of the more than 40 service members with the 474th, approximately 10 are junior enlisted, according to Vaughn.
"We have junior airmen in just about every shop," added Vaughn.
Guantanamo Bay provides a unique opportunity for recreation in addition to the valuable training the service members will receive. The 474th leadership plans to get their service members involved in the community.
"[When I found out I was coming to Guantanamo], I was excited and surprised," said Vallsclelosreyes. "Usually we just go to the desert."
The new service members with the 474th look forward to taking advantage of all that Guantanamo has to offer during their free time, such as participating in scuba diving, fishing and team sports.