Air Force engineers answer the call from Soldiers in Iraq
on Saturday, 27 December 2008

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by Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker
Air Forces Central news team

12/24/2008 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- "Answering the call" is a motto 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen believe in, and it's something Soldiers can attest to.

This team of combat-trained engineers, assigned to the 732nd ECES Det. 6, will build anything, anywhere to help Soldiers in Iraq accomplish their mission or to improve quality of life.

"We do vertical and horizontal construction projects at different forward operating bases," said Maj. Thomas Taylor, the Det. 6 commander. "We can build a FOB from the ground up or expand facilities to provide more space for Soldiers to live and work in. We give Soldiers who go outside the wire to conduct the combat mission a better quality of life."

Although the nature of their mission hasn't changed, these Airmen who work with the Army -- and in most cases fill Army civil engineer positions -- have adjusted to a mission that takes them outside the wire to provide their construction and electrical services.

"What we do here is basically what we do at home station, we just do it in a combat environment," said the major deployed from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. "We provide Air Force construction and maintenance capabilities to our Army brethren. We support the warfighter."

This team includes Airmen with plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electrical, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning skills. It also includes heavy equipment operators, vehicle maintainers and logistics or supply Airmen.

"We try to mirror an Army engineer team to the best of our ability," said Senior Master Sgt. John Mazza, the Det. 6 superintendent. "We need to be a self-sustained unit that can maintain our vehicles and get the supplies needed to get the job done."

On a recent mission, they put the finishing touches on a 15-building construction project at Forward Operating Base Caldwell, Iraq, which increased lodging space to house up to 550 Soldiers.

"These Airmen bring an awesome capability to the fight. They provide the facilities that allow Soldiers to have some personal space and give them the opportunity to spread out," said Army Lt. Col. Joel Cross, the 5th Engineer Battalion commander. "What they provide is a better quality of life for our Soldiers."

Although the team's construction projects are inside the confines of the FOBs, they have completed 364 man-movements on convoy, logging more than 32,000 miles on the dangerous roads of Iraq. But they are happy to do so to help a fellow servicemember.

"It's a very exciting mission," said Senior Airman George Benson, a Det. 6 electrical systems journeyman. "We get to travel off the base, see what it is like outside the wire and experience a deployment from an Army point of view."

The Airmen of Det. 6 are using their Air Force skill sets to directly impact overall operations in Iraq.

"It's rewarding to know that we are directly supporting the Soldiers who are going outside the wire to conduct operations," Major Taylor said. "If we can provide a bathroom with porcelain instead of a burn-out toilet, a dining facility in a building instead of a tent, or just a place to sleep at night, then we make it a little nicer to come back at the end of the day and relax. "

The work of Det. 6 has not gone unnoticed. Military leaders understand that quality-of-life improvements can affect more than just unit morale.

"A happy Soldier is a Soldier who is dedicated to the mission," Colonel Cross said. "This utilities team is second to none. I'm glad they're here. Without them we couldn't do our job, and I'm proud to be on the same team with them." 

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Last update: Saturday, 27 December 2008

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