PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Power tools whir and construction vehicles rumble as the sun beats down on Pease Air National Guard Base.
Airmen of the 157th Civil Engineer Squadron here and Soldiers of the Detachment 2, 160th Engineer Company of Franklin, New Hampshire began a two week-long training period May 16, 2017, on base.
The joint team of about 50 engineers collaborated to complete four construction projects during the two weeks.
“This is our largest endeavor together in the last ten years, aside from international humanitarian missions,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Stephanie L. Kerrigan, the 157th Civil Engineer Squadron acting commander.
The Airmen and Soldiers worked to demolish and replace an existing road salt storage shed, create a turnaround point for commercial vehicles at the secondary base gate and clear trees to make way for new radar equipment.
The Army engineers had been scheduled to travel to El Salvador in support of the New Hampshire National Guard’s ongoing Beyond the Horizons mission, which provides humanitarian and civic assistance. When this plan fell through, Air and Army Engineer leadership recognized an opportunity.
The two weeks of construction projects helped to build upon what the engineers have learned in their respective technical training.
“In tech school, we don’t get a lot of hands-on experience with heavy equipment or power tools,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Elijah N. Davies, a 157th CES structural craftsman. “this is more real-world and reflects what we actually do.”
Supervisors at each job site rotated soldiers and airmen through tasks such as preparing calculations and measurements as well as operating construction tools and vehicles.
“We’ve got relatively simple calculations for larger projects, so it’s like the best of both worlds,” said Army Sgt. Ben M. Stevens, a Det. 2, 160th Engineer Co. horizontal engineer. “They can learn everything and there is enough work to keep everyone busy.”
The training opportunity represented the crawl and walk phases of the learning process, which allowed for slow, steady and safe practice of skills and processes.
“Getting used to that safety-oriented mindset in this lower-risk environment is key to preparing them for deployment situations,” said Kerrigan.
Part of the National Guard mission is to respond during local state emergencies, such as flooding and ice storms.
“We’re going to be working with these guys doing route clearance, debris removal and shoring up facilities,” said Kerrigan. “Now we have the personal connections and an understanding of how each group works to be able to do that effectively.”
Integrating the different experiences, skill-sets and personalities of the two unique groups was an important consideration when planning this training period.
“I expected there to be a lot of adjustment and spin-up, but they’ve all exceeded my expectations” said Kerrigan. “I attribute that to their positive attitudes and enthusiasm, and the great leadership of both the Air and Army NCOs.”
Whether they are building connections or constructing buildings, the engineers of the New Hampshire National Guard will start with a strong foundation.