By Staff Sgt. Lauren Penney, 184th Public Affairs
Before first light on June 3, a bustle of activity took place at the 184th Civil Engineer Squadron. Bags were loaded and last minute checks were made as Airmen prepared to leave for a two-week deployment for training at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.
“What we’ve done at Bellows is, we’ve been called in to basically redo this building,” said Master Sgt. John Ives, civil operations manager and noncommissioned officer in charge of the project, 184th CES.
The initial project was simply, remodel an old security forces building at Bellows—tear out and replace old walls and carpet, along with reroofing the building.
However, during demolition, extensive termite damage was evident throughout the entire building, apart from the roof.
“As we got further into and started looking at the structural pieces of the building, we realized that we couldn’t build on what existed,” said Maj. Jeff Schmidt, 184th CES. “We needed to basically start over. So then we had to figure out a way to do that, and to salvage what we could out of the building.”
Since the damage was worse than originally thought, the engineers developed a secondary plan of removing and replacing everything under the roof. The roof was the only salvageable structure of the building.
With that decided, Airmen began propping up the roof and installing sections, while the roofers shingled the steady parts of the roof.
“It takes a huge group effort,” said Ives. “Engineers need to be able to justify and know what things can and can’t be done safely—that’s the main thing. We want to keep our people safe while we’re working in those different environments. We’re pulling all those materials out and want make sure something doesn’t collapse on them.”
With all of the replanning, Airmen received training on jobs outside their field of expertise.
“I got a lot of experience working on things that I’m not used to working on,” said Senior Airman Ricky Navarette, 184th CES. “I don’t work with roofing, structures or anything like that and now I get to work with all the different guys that are out here working on different aspects of the project.”
Airmen from other squadrons also helped.
“Well, anybody coming out here from any kind of Air Force Specialty Code, would get some kind of training from this, being it’s construction,” said Master Sgt. Glen Godsey, civil engineering operations management at Smoky Hill. “So if you ever wanted to build your own deck, if you ever wanted to repair something in your own home, this could kind of teach you a little bit of that.”
The 184th Force Support Squadron services team provided breakfast and lunch every day for the workers, starting their meal preparations before dawn.
“It was a good experience for all of our younger Airmen who had never been on temporary duty before,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Guild, 184th FSS. “The team really pulled together to provide food support for our fellow Jayhawks.”
“It also gave all our Airmen an opportunity to build camaraderie with others that they may not be able to do at home station,” said Master Sgt. Marla Urban, 184th FSS.
Despite the unforeseen complications, the 184th CES was able to tear down and replace the building to about 65 percent completion before the Nebraska Air Guard arrived to continue the project.
“I think that kind of resounds inside each of us of how good our Airmen are and how willing they are to take something that we had an original plan and totally change it and adapt and overcome,” said Ives. “Even though we’ve had some long days and we’ve had some challenges, financially, and some materials and so forth and obviously with the project itself, they’re willing to just put their head down and get it done.”