Serving comes full circle: 128 CES trains, renovates to support veteran program

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jenna Lenski
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
More than 30 U.S. Airmen with the civil engineering squadron of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, completed hands-on annual training while gutting and renovating a cabin that belongs to Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk, Wis. Sept. 13-27.

Camp American Legion, owned and operated by the American Legion of Wisconsin, is a haven in the northern woods for Wisconsin veterans and their families to reintegrate, relax and recuperate.

The 128 CES has a base engineer emergency force team, known in the Air Force as Prime BEEF, whose mission is to provide engineering support in order to construct and maintain fully-functional bases in deployed locations, or to recover bases damaged by natural or man-made causes.

During the two weeks of training while renovating the cabin, 128 CES members got their hands dirty with planning, construction, electrical, plumbing, landscaping, heating, ventilating and air conditioning.

"Our squadron got a vast training benefit from working up at Camp American Legion," said Col. J. Heath Duncan, commander of the civil engineering squadron with the 128 ARW.  "Not to mention the teamwork and camaraderie we all shared."

The 128 CES gutted the run-down cabin and replaced the flooring, cabinets and roof.  They also replaced the plumbing and electrical, and installed an air conditioner.

Near the cabin, they replaced the rotted dock and removed the unkempt outhouse. 

The American Legion of Wisconsin funded the project through their capital fund and $14,800 raised by Wisconsin's Legion Riders.  They were also able to obtain donations from local area businesses for supplies including a $5,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation.

"You have all the different construction trades and it's always good to get some hands-on training, where you can physically be doing the work," said Chief Master Sgt. Harry Wilkinson, the project manager.  "We just saw this as the perfect opportunity for all the different specialties."

Camp American Legion is open to all Wisconsin veterans and offers food and lodging free of charge for those who qualify to participate in the program. The camp offers recreation such as fishing, boating, hiking trails and their well-known chipmunk crossing area.  The program's mission is to help veterans and families take their minds off of hurting and help them find relief and revitalization through the serenity of the camp.

"The camp's sole purpose is to support wounded veterans and their families," said Duncan.  "This is a tremendous service for Wisconsin military members that no one else in the nation has.  The camp has a great mission set."