09/20/2016 -- INARAJAN, Guam - Members of the Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143d Airlift Wing's Civil Engineering Squadron (CES) and Public Affairs (PA) Office partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Guam for an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) exercise. The 36 member team were there to assist in the construction of two homes slated for two Guam families chosen by the Habitat for Humanity program. The mission took place in Inarajan, Guam from August 29 - September 20, 2016.
The IRT program is designed to build mutually beneficial civil-military partnerships between US communities and the Department of Defense (DoD) to:
· Provide high quality, mission-essential training for Active, Guard, and Reserve support personnel and units
· Deliver military readiness and partnership capacity to serve when the nation calls, at home or abroad
· Contribute to American prosperity by meeting public and civil-society needs
· Strengthen the bond between American citizens and the US military
· Kindle a spirit of service and volunteerism among all partners and the communities they serve
In 1993, the Defense Authorization Act report by the Senate Armed Services Committee stated, "The American people have made an enormous investment in developing the skills, capabilities, and resources of the Armed Forces. These resources, if properly matched to local needs and coordinated with civilian efforts, can be a useful contribution to addressing the serious domestic needs of the United States."
The 143d Civil Engineering Squadron is the fifth of five Air National Guard units that have deployed in support of this IRT mission. Prior to the Rhode Island Air National Guard's arrival in August, teams from the Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Tennessee Air National Guard had rotated through the project. The mission provided readiness training and allowed military members to provide a service to the community of Inarajan. "The IRT program provides valuable training that you can't get on drill weekends. Additionally, it provides Airmen the opportunity to solve problems," said Major Jeremiah Buckenberger, 143 CES Commander, who also attended the training mission.
The members of the 143 CES were from numerous trades within the Civil Engineering Squadron to include, Plumbing, Electrician, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), Structural, "Dirt Boys," Engineering, Emergency Management, Operations and Power Pro. Electrical ran all interior conduits and wiring, installed electrical panels, tested all conductors, and calculated utility materials. Pavements and Construction, known as the "Dirt Boys," graded front yards, corrected drainage ditches, and planned drainage paths. Structures finished interior framing, installed drywall, leveled floors and skim coated exteriors. Water and Fuels fixed all plumbing issues, tested new and old piping systems, finished rough plumbing for water, and installed bathroom vents. Operations managed equipment and tool inventory and ran day to day site operations. Members from trades that did not have any work specific to their trade seamlessly joined in with other tradesmen to assist. Together the team was able to complete diverse cross training and "hands on" experience which is unattainable at home station. "Everyone is coming together to make this project happen. Even if there is a trade that we may have not done or didn't go to school for, with the experience of the Master Sergeants or Supervisors in charge, we get to learn something new," said Staff Sgt. David Gallego, 143 CES HVAC Specialist. Overall, this mission has provided the 143 AW members much needed training, which would normally not be available at home station. Also the experience grants supervisors and Airmen the ability to hone their teaching and mentoring skills. During an interview with the 143 AW Public Affairs staff that joined the CES on the mission, Senior Airman Corey Briggs added, "I was able to broaden my skill sets that were not my field of expertise."
Habitat for Humanity of Guam works to provide homeownership opportunity to low-income families in need. This was their inaugural project with the IRT program and working directly with the military. Normally the organization produces one single, safe, decent, and affordable home per year but with this program implemented they have forecasted four completed homes by the end of the year. The recipients for the new homes are two disadvantaged families; one home is promised to a single mother with (3) children whose residence burned down and as a result is presently living in a community-donated shipping container. The second home is going to a family of five who recently lost their youngest child and have relocated back to Guam from the mainland. They have come back to restart their lives and are currently living in a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment.
The Innovative Readiness Training program has a ripple effect by influencing many lives. "This project is critical, because it's going to make or break our strategic plans going forward," said Alicia P. Aguon, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Guam. She added, "That's what Habitat is about; it's about bringing everybody together for the greater good of the community. So you guys coming here focused on doing what you got on your schedule but you're ultimately helping us as an island."
The working environment was subject to extreme weather conditions, such as blistering heat and humidity and drenching rain which added to the challenge of completing the mission and the training. The mission for the 143d Civil Engineering Squadron was to accomplish training. The addition of providing a service to Habitat for Humanity and the community of Inajaran was a bonus. The IRT program did not expect the houses to be completely finished by the end of the rotations. However, in true Rhody spirit, members of the 143 CES who were available to stay, volunteered to stay an extra week to further complete the two houses.
The 143d Civil Engineering Squadron received accolades from the Innovative Readiness Training Duration team, Habitat for Humanity of Guam and the neighborhood of Inarjan. "Rhode Island is a hard-working and close-knit group. I truly appreciated their knowledge, dedication, and camaraderie," said Captain Dwayne Rogers, IRT Duration team. Major Buckenberger recognized several outstanding Airmen with coins during a small ceremony held prior to the first group leaving Guam. All of the Airmen dedicated an outstanding effort during the mission. The benefits of successful training does not out-weigh the satisfaction the Airmen have for building new homes for these local families. These families and the residents of Inajaran will remember the efforts of these men and women for years to come.