BLACKFEET INDIAN RESERVATION, Mont. --
Last month, Airmen from the 102nd Civil Engineer Squadron traveled across the country to participate in this year’s Air National Guard Civil Engineer Innovative Readiness Training. The main focus of the IRT was to assist in the construction of a 7,000-square-foot senior community center for Blackfeet Nation Indian Tribe elders.
The IRT program allows engineers an opportunity to practice hands-on, real-world engineering training in a deployed environment. This improves readiness and also builds partnerships and brings benefits to disadvantaged communities.
This year’s location was the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana in the northern part of the state, close to the Canadian border.
The engineers made their way to "Big Sky Country" courtesy of a Michigan ANG KC-135 Stratotanker, direct from Otis Air National Guard Base. The flight was the first ride on a military aircraft for many of the Airmen – made especially exceptional when Master Sgt. Morgan Marconi was surprised by a promotion at 30,000 feet.
“Everyone in CE has a specific skill set – many projects may be outside of an Airman’s specific AFSC but regardless, our engineers jump in to help with any task,” said Lt. Col. Christian Leighton, 102nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander.
The IRT program was designed to integrate the skills and training that military civil engineers have to do already, with the needs of some of our community partners.
“The squadron simply crushed it!” said Leighton
While there, 102 CES Airmen performed tasks that focused primarily on plumbing and earthwork, completing under slab plumbing and work on utilities as well as general preparation for wall construction. Side projects, such as constructing tool storage, replacing electrical grounding wires, and building observation platforms at a local equestrian community training center, rounded out their time.
When all was said and done, this project will save the community $1.5M while allowing engineers to hone and sharpen their technical expertise.
The jewel of the project, a 7,000 square foot senior center, accounted for two weeks and 3,240 hours of work.
Staff Sgt. Jose Canario acted as the squadron’s project manager, directing all the activities and ensuring all tasks were accomplished. Leaning on the experts within their ranks, they were able to accelerate their timelines and accomplish more than expected.
“Give CE a task and unleash our NCOs… in true CE fashion, THEY get it done!” said Leighton. “This DFT was an incredible experience.”
The squadron worked hard, but also made time to bolster team cohesion and esprit de corps through off-duty activities such as hiking Glacier National Park, taking a whitewater rafting trip and enjoying a western rodeo.”
The contributions made by the Airmen of the 102 CES were significant as evidenced by remarks made by the overall IRT project manager, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Eversole.
“The team came to the Blackfeet Nation project this year and performed exceptionally! They hit the ground running and helped us get the project back on track so that we could give an impoverished community a building that they could use as a gathering place,” said Eversole.
“A place where the elders could gather to socialize or could teach the younger generation about their heritage.”