Civil Engineering in Cuba
By TSgt Dawn Putzke, 128ARW CE
/ Published September 23, 2008
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- Last year was full of opportunities for the 128th Civil Engineering Squadron. Dual deployments meant double rise and shine for the unit. In both operations they received high praise for the excellent work ethic and dedication to the respective projects. Rise and shine, with great pride they indeed did with their mission accomplishments.
Operation Jump Start in Yuma, Arizona afforded the unit a two week deployment in April. In the short period of time allotted, they smashed records welding fences, laying PVC piping for electrical work and their "Dirt Boys" were overly busy hauling multiple loads. The 128th's unit success was due largely to their unique approach in applying team efforts. Multiple teams even included the extraordinary twist of a father-son team, a brother team and a father-daughter team.
September 1st was the second huge date of 2007 as members of the 128th deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as part of the history making $10.2 million construction project for Phase I of the Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC) for the military commissions on McCalla Airfield in GTMO. Approximately 100 members from six different states combined efforts to help ensure fair trials are provided to the detainees held there in Camp America.
After settling in Tent City, and without realizing the date significance, project ground was broke on September 11th. Half through the day, date awareness hit the group as to the irony of this project to insure fair trials for the detainees.
Blueprints designed by another group known as RED HORSE, called for converting an abandoned airfield in to an expansive campus that would include all the amenities needed to facilitate the Office of Military Commissions (OMC). The 128th was to work on a six month deployment with the 474th on pre-specific construction goals.
The 128th had to use exceptional and innovative skills to overcome unforeseen obstacles to complete their dedicated contributions to this project. On top of trying to read what ideas the designers envisioned, the logistics of acquiring the materials from a plane or via a barge from Florida were nightmarish to say the least. Weather aside, the logistics of this mission were uncontrollable and truly tested the ability of the units to beg, borrow and network materials for the project. Focus, teamwork and island community support were an incredible asset to success.
After the 474th finishes construction of the project, government contractors can be brought in to paint, install communications and add furniture to the legal complex. The project encompasses a number of buildings accommodating a courtroom and facilities to be utilized during military commission's hearings. The Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC) will have cell blocks where detainees will be held during their hearings or trials, and a connecting, highly secure walkway known as the "Green Mile" where they will be escorted in to the courtroom.
Two Airmen from the 128th were recognized for their outstanding performance and attitude during the ELC Construction and were awarded the quarterly deployed member awards for the U.S. Southern Command Air Forces. SrA Bradley Wiskowski received the Airman category and MSgt Corey Bialcik received the Senior NCO category. The 128th takes great pride in being a part of the rewarding mission of fighting the Global War on Terror and graciously accepts the verbal appreciation of Air Force Lt. Col. James Starnes, commander of the 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron for their role in completing the targeted mission date.