KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — As concrete splatter finds its way onto the uniforms and faces of U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron, smiles and laughter can be seen and heard coming from the workers as they pour a concrete foundation at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2014.
“I have been here since September and this is the most interesting job I’ve done,” said Senior Airman Mervin Santa Maria, 577th EPBS electrician. “This is the first time I have ever poured concrete.”
Most of the members of the 577th EPBS had never poured concrete before, yet they were all able to go out and construct concrete pads for a large-area maintenance facility, which is approximately 8,000 square feet.
“The purpose of this construction is so that vehicle maintenance has a facility for all of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing vehicles, a fleet of about 550 vehicles,” explained Capt. Larry Cornelio, 577th EPBS Officer in Charge of Bravo Element.
The 577th EPBS is the only engineer capability that the 451st AEW has, so they were called on to get the new vehicle maintenance facility up so that it can continue its service to the 451st.
“We are a forward deployed unit from the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group at Al Udeid Air Base,” said Cornelio. “AEW’s can give us requirements and then we send teams out to meet those requirements, it doesn’t matter if it’s constructing expeditionary facilities or shelters, repairs, demolitions or salvaging shelters.”
With the move of the vehicle maintenance facility, the land that they once occupied will go back to the Afghan National Army.
As the last engineer force in Afghanistan, Santa Maria wants to a lasting impression during his deployment.
“If you are going to be gone and away from your family for six months at a time, you want to make that time worthwhile,” said Santa Maria, deployed from the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. “Even if it’s a job as simple as pouring concrete or tearing down tents, you still have a huge impact on the mission as a whole.”