News: Digging in with Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Story by Sgt. David McLean
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The fruits of the 36 members from the 118th Civil Engineering Squadron's labor are evident all around U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. Take a look at the new playground equipment at Cooper Field, the refurbished bathrooms in Camp America, or the other places where these Tennessee Air National Guard members were working these past two weeks. They did their work in the name of annual training and helped improve the quality of life for the Guantanamo Bay community as they polished their skills in preparation for future deployments.
The 118th CES is out of Nashville, Tenn., and they have finished their yearly "Deployment for Training" requirement. This training takes them away from their home area and places them in situations that closely resemble deployment environments and missions. Their mission here was to complete tasks around the naval station while training junior members in a hands-on training environment.
Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Bradford, squadron commander, 118th CES, said the mission was successful because of the information shared between his experienced Airmen and his younger members.
"This has been an extraordinary training opportunity for our younger Airmen," Bradford said. "There is only so much you can do in the classroom and on computer simulations. Now it is time to train the younger members of the unit so no information is lost over the next few years."
This training included work on plumbing and electrical systems, basic carpentry and masonry and being resourceful in getting help from other groups to complete work.
"We're a construction outfit so we've had to use the services of the engineers," said Air Force 1st Sgt. David Freeland, 118th CES. "They have gone out and sighted in some projects for the Joint Task Force folks for upcoming teams that will be coming out here. We've done a huge amount of utility work in plumbing and electrical, but all the skills of our Airmen have been tested. All the trades within the Air Force construction outfit have benefited greatly, not only from getting work done, but being able to use the DFT concept to train our younger people to come in and get their hands dirty."
The younger Airmen in the squadron had a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
"I've learned how to install water lines, toilets, sinks and urinals, and learned a few other things like how to put up tile," said Airmen 1st Class Christina Yates, a utilities Airman, 118th CES. "We've learned a lot of good stuff that will be useful back in the civilian world as well. I think we've done a good job of accomplishing our tasks that we were assigned, and we picked up a couple of other ones and completed them the best we can."
The 118th CES had to complete the assigned tasks of renovating a bathroom facility at Camp America, to site and construct a Morale, Welfare and Recreation playground complex, build an interior wall at a naval station facility and construct a target storage structure at a firing range. In addition to these tasks, they were able to complete a concrete supply ramp for a naval station dining facility, provide power production personnel support for generator maintenance for 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron, repair a wall at the Radio Guantanamo office, begin plans for an observation deck on the leeward side of the naval station for Migrant Operations, and provide engineering personnel support for survey work at leeward for 474th ECES.
The much-needed improvements to existing facilities used by service members here were appreciated, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Guillermo Santiago, Camp America commandant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 525th Military Police Battalion.
"I am pleased about the way they conducted business," Santiago said. "They have demonstrated a high degree of professionalism. The way they came in here and constructed and renovated the latrines; they did it in a record time of two weeks. You have to [remember] that we don't have a Home Depot here on the island, and they did an outstanding job."
The 118th CES has left their mark on the Guantanamo Bay community and helped to improve the quality of life while taking away the skills required to complete their mission anywhere in the world.