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September 27, 2013

March Civil Engineer S-Team rebuilds infrastructures, saves money

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Col. Mark Slominski
922 Civil Engineer Flight/S-Team commander

Maj. Ryan Wood, 922nd Civil Engineer Flight, stands on the roof of a fire station, July 5, 2013, that his team is building in Afghanistan, to support the Ministry of Defense headquarters building, seen in the background. The small 922 CEF S-Team has participated in a rigorous deployment cycle for more than a year.

The March Air Reserve Base Civil Engineer S-Team is in the midst of a significant deployment cycle, with more than 40 percent of the unit leading missions in the Central Command Area of Responsibility over a 14-month period. Deployed commanders are providing feedback about S-Team accomplishments such as, “a deployed warrior, executing 25 outside-the-wire missions for 352,000 Afghan Security Forces,” and, “handled the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s number one priority project with ease.” Such accolades reflect directly upon the quality of Air Force Reserve Airmen serving at March Air Reserve Base, and were reinforced in the recent award of three Bronze Stars to S-Team members.

The S-Team is a unique and relatively small combat enabler which has been home stationed at March since 1998. With six deployed members now safely home, and several more scheduled to head out in the next few months, March ARB can be proud of the engineering successes its S-Team is accomplishing.

Our team is made of contingency engineering experts, with primary missions involving command staff augmentation as well as planning, design and construction management. While we are assigned as a PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) asset, we are also integrated into Air Force Reserve and March Air Reserve Base missions where our unique and valuable expertise can be applied.

Capt. Diego Noboa, 904th Civil Engineer Flight, recently returned from deployment, where he served as operations engineering chief for the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, Southwest Asia. He excelled as part of a squadron with approximately 900 military and contractor personnel.

“My primary duties involved management of service contracts as well as the CE customer service, material control, work order execution and energy management programs,” Noboa said. “Our largest success saved the Air Force more than $1 million, in six months, in energy, while also saving an additional $500,000 by consolidating contracts to reduce the contractor footprint. Our team introduced solar panel power sources, applied high-efficiency lighting and implemented proactive, energy metering to manage the energy guzzlers.”

While Noboa succeeded in augmenting at the Flight level, Lt. Col. Walter Scherer, 922nd CEF, drove the mission as the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron deputy commander, leading a 350-person squadron that managed a remarkable six-country span of control.

“I continuously circulated through the Battle Space in support of work for the Army’s Theater Engineering Brigade, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the Afghanistan Combined Forces Air Component,” Scherer said. “Safety was one of my big pet peeves. Before I arrived, there was an unfortunate incident where three contractors were killed while demolishing a building. My proactive efforts reinvigorated a safety culture in both military and contracted projects.

One of the great achievements was a small maintenance repair team. As Base Operating Support drew down we realized we could put together small, multi-skilled crews to support forward operating locations. These six-person teams arrived at the site to fix priority projects but, also worked with the Camp Mayor to support other maintenance issues involving things like water and power systems.

This allowed closing out multiple issues on one visit. Ultimately, our initiative evolved into the C-SMART multi-service teams, with Army and Navy personnel joining the Air Force to provide this critical mission support.

In another location of Afghanistan, a dedicated March ARB S-Team member shouldered the country’s top priority contract. Maj. Ryan Wood, 922 CEF, was assigned duties as project manager and contracting officer’s representative for the Afghan National Ministry of Defense Headquarters, a $107 million building about the size of seven “super” chain stores. Wood pushed the project to 85 percent complete.

“This was the marquee project for Afghanistan as the number one priority in country, with the vision of providing a state of the art facility to help drive Afghanistan to self-sufficiency,” Wood said. “It will essentially be their version of the Pentagon when complete.”

Scherer tied deployed accomplishments back to the unique and valued skills associated with March ARB citizen Airmen.

“What caught the eyes of leadership was that the S-Team provided people with strong engineering backgrounds,” he said. “For example, I brought an acquisition background from my civilian job which provided Contracting Officer representative skills and contract management capability that weren’t prevalent in the active duty Air Force.“

As the S-Team prepares to send the next round of engineers down range, March ARB can take pride in the combat capability that resides in this potent, and much sought after, engineering resource.




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