From expeditionary to enduring: Civil Engineer crews improve Bagram infrastructure
on Friday, 12 December 2008

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by Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/11/2008 - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Seven years into the war on terror, the U.S. military is transitioning operations here from an expeditionary mindset to an enduring one. Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron work around the clock to improve Bagram Air Field's infrastructure and support this enduring mission.

There are 25 active construction projects valued at more than $73 million. More than $221 million in construction is scheduled for next year.

"Our mission is to maintain and repair the airfield," said Master Sgt. Brent Sheehan, 455th ECES superintendent deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. "This base and mission is growing like at no other time in the history of Bagram. There is a huge push for expansion. This is well known in the squadron and the pressure and focus is on us to get it done."

While there are a few projects designed to improve living and working conditions for the nearly 2,000 Airmen assigned at Bagram, the majority of the construction projects center on improving and expanding the airfield. Projects at the top of the list involve expanding three ramps, increasing space for rotary and fixed wing aircraft and constructing a parallel taxiway. In addition, an arm/de-arm ramp and hot cargo ramp are being constructed to allow for safe and secure handling of aircraft ammunition. Most of these projects involve pouring massive amounts of concrete.

"The record for pouring concrete or concrete projects (in one deployment rotation) was 2,200 cubic meters," said Sergeant Sheehan. "Since August we have completed 2,075 cubic meters and are set to do another 1,500 before the end of December. This will give us a grand total of 3,575 cubic meters - 1,375 cubic meters more than any other rotation in history."

As an expeditionary unit, the 455th ECES doesn't have the manning and equipment CE units back home have. To keep up with construction demands, many projects are completed as a joint effort between CE, the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group, the Bagram facility engineer team and local contractors.

"This is a partnership - you work together to get the mission done," said Sergeant Sheehan. "You are so dependent on materials, equipment, local contractors - there is a marriage that happens between you and all those other things. If there is no harmony then it is hard to get things done."

Another key element in getting things done is the 455th ECES force protection escorts. These Airmen, deployed from a variety of career fields, have one of the most underappreciated jobs according to Sergeant Sheehan. The force protection escorts monitor airfield construction sites and the local nationals who work there.

"There are people on this base who want to hurt us and their targets are high value assets like those on the airfield," said Sergeant Sheehan. "None of the construction work would be going on without the FP escort's blanket of vigilance."

Staff Sgt. Laura Duquain, aerospace ground equipment technician deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., helps manage the flight of force protection escorts. Sitting at a construction site watching workers may not sound like an exciting job, but she said the Airmen realize how important it is.

"We are helping security forces because they can't be everywhere," she said. "We help manage the airfield and keep it safe. We've had Airmen confiscate cell phones that weren't allowed and even detain people who were breaking the rules. So I think it is really important we are there."

As 455th ECES superintendent, Sergeant Sheehan is impressed by the Airmen's ability to adapt and get the mission done.

"What I've noticed and what brings a lot of pride is no one in the squadron pulls the union card - no one says, 'I'm just an electrician,' or 'I'm just a plumber,'" he said. "We have five utilities guys who have rolled right in with the dirt boys. They go at it with tenacity and willingness that is amazing and have become a valuable asset.

"The squadron understands what the mission is and collectively works to get it done," he added.

As they complete projects providing more space for aircraft, 455th ECES proves a valuable part of the enduring mission in Afghanistan.

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Last update: Friday, 12 December 2008

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