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    Doing it all in JBER’s backyard

    Doing it all in JBER’s backyard

    Photo By TOMMIE BAKER | U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles, 611th Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and...... read more read more

    Usually the odd man out is something no one wants to be, but the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron owns their exclusivity. With a mission that goes beyond their host installation, they are like no other CES within the Air Force.

    Civil engineer squadrons are crucial for mission readiness at any location, but especially so for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s arctic warriors. They are responsible for coming up with solutions to complex problems that keep our facilities and utilities running effectively, even through ice and snow.

    The fine distinction between the 611th CES– assigned to the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center– and its counterparts lies within their realm of responsibilities. This squadron of only 87 members is responsible for the upkeep of 43 austere radar sites throughout Alaska and the Pacific region. This means sustaining Arctic surveillance weapon systems and infrastructure, as well as maintaining the strategic Pacific air bridge and divert airfield at Wake Island atoll, and three radar sites in Hawaii that support the Hawaii Regional Air Operations Center.

    “It’s an important mission,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Nathan McNeely, 611th CES senior enlisted manager. “We fall under PACAF and we support Hawaii and Wake Island. If you think about the radar sites, they’re actually the first lines of defense if we were to have an adversarial aircraft cross into our air space. Those radars make sure that we get early detection, and get those bombers or fighters out of here to intercept.”

    Their posture at JBER is a matter of efficiency, as 17 of the 21 active sites are in Alaska; they include 15 long-range radar sites scattered across the state, King Salmon Air Station which serves as a divert airfield, and Eareckson Air Station in the Aleutian Island’s which hosts a ballistic missile defense mission, and serve as an aircraft refueling point.

    “We’re always protecting the Lower 48, which is a Northern American Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command mission,” McNeely said. “I would say about 80 percent of what we do is for the homeland defense mission although we belong to PACAF.”

    The job description is only the start of what the 611th Airmen are tasked to handle. Being in remote locations, hours away from any support agencies, accuracy and precision critical.

    “Going on a temporary duty assignment to these sites can be challenging,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Austin Henrichsen, 611th CES maintenance contracts manager. “The planning and methods of our squadron has to be top-notch. When you plan a job here at JBER, you have to plan for options A, B, C, and D because when you’re out there, hardware stores don’t exist, there’s no room for error when planning a job.”

    Along with the colorful scenery Alaska offers, come frosty, subzero conditions in the tundra. Due to the limited construction seasons at most of the sites, coordination of materials and logistics has to be done well in advance.

    “From engineering flight to operations flight, we’ll designate someone to be a project lead and they’ll start coordinating,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Brooks, 611th CES non-commissioned officer in charge of maintenance contracts.

    Once this is done, the construction team will start planning, scrubbing down every list, coordinating with through our CE logistics folks, and that’s how we get everything on a military aircraft, or a barge movement.”

    The 611th CES dispatches engineers 365 days a year. Even where there isn’t ongoing construction, they’re tasked with quality assurance evaluations, and more often than not, unforeseen circumstances require them to go on a temporary duty assignment at a moment’s notice.

    “Once, we had a massive windstorm that blew the roof off of a power plant, water started penetrating the facility, and we lost power,” Brooks said. “So we actually dispatched a quick reaction force CE team from JBER to go out there with raw materials to repair the roof and bring it back online.”

    Although logistical hurdles, weather and wildlife can end up sending a priority job into temporary chaos, the unique mission, planning and partnerships assure the mission stays on track.

    The 611th CES partners with sister squadrons within the 673d Civil Engineer Group to collaborate on programs, balancing and cross utilizing manpower. Similarly, 773d Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainers dispatch with the 611th CES construction crews to ensure vehicles remain operational throughout the project locations. However, when there is a project on an island across the Pacific, it takes more than JBER’s teams to maintain the radar sites.

    “We leverage support from multiple agencies in Hawaii due to the location,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Klauck, 611th CES commander’s executive. “We have points of contact at 18th Force Support Squadron at Bellows Air Force Base. We work with them, we use the Navy, we use support agreements with the Directorate of Public Works out of Hawaii, Army garrison, the Coast Guard. Really, they are the force multipliers.”

    Building and maintaining partnerships is a priority for an installation like JBER, and even more so for the mission at the 611th CES.

    “Partnerships are key in our organizations just because of the logistical nightmares; the partnerships that we have at these various sites is paramount to make sure Alaska radar sites are up and running,” Klauck said. “The partnerships we develop and continue to develop are fundamental to our unit’s mission due to how small we are.”

    While the unit functions as a small team, they all agree that their mission is massive, and there’s no telling what’ll happen next.

    “There isn’t a better job,” said McNeely. “I’m immensely proud of what we’re doing, and the impact we’re having with so few people. We trust our Airmen, and ask them to give it all they got. When you see some cool things we’ve accomplished, it’s pretty empowering.” Day in and day out, 611th CES sees the mission through– all in JBER’s backyard

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.10.2019
    Date Posted: 04.11.2019 19:21
    Story ID: 317641
    Location: JBER, AK, US

    Web Views: 93
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    Doing it all in JBER’s backyard