From the Frontlines: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Winkels

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Ensuring infrastructure projects were done according to specifications across Joint Base Balad, Iraq, was a duty which was entrusted to Staff Sgt. Jennifer Winkels, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of construction management during her last deployment, June 14 to Dec. 26, 2010.

Sergeant Winkels, an Air Force Global Strike Command Airman, ensured all construction and demolition projects across base were carried out and oversaw contractors during her second deployment.

"On average, each of my seven inspectors, maintained three- to-six projects at a time," Sergeant Winkels said. "These projects included demolition, road repair, fence installation, building renovations, electrical overhauls, airfield repairs and facility consolidation projects.

"As new projects were created, I assigned an inspector to each per that individual's specialty," she said. "I personally oversaw all road repair projects across base. The importance of maintaining the roads across JBB encompasses safe travel for not only non-tactical vehicles but for the multiple semi-trucks, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and other tactical vehicles that traveled around base."

Sergeant Winkels said there were more than 8,000 vehicles that transited JBB roads every day.

"The road repairs included ruts, potholes, uneven surfaces and constructing new driveway for the years of abuse from the larger vehicles, poor sub-grade conditions and extreme weather conditions," she said.

In addition to her assigned duties, Sergeant Winkels volunteered numerous times as a road guard or work water station for the base's five- and 10-kilometer runs. Sergeant Winkels said her most memorable volunteer event was being a mentor at the Iraqi Kid's Day. More than 150 volunteers dedicated a day and played games with more than 100 Iraqi children which were brought on base for the event.

"The girl I was assigned to mentor was 12 years old and dreamed of becoming a reporter," Sergeant Winkels said. "She picked me because she liked my smile. We spent a good part of the day drawing flowers and smiley faces on the T-walls. It was a day I will never forget."

Sergeant Winkels said she enjoyed her deployment and would go again because she loves her job and being able to perform a deployed location is rewarding.

Although Sergeant Winkels faced new challenges this time around which she didn't experience on her first deployment, she said she still kept focus on the mission.

"Probably the biggest challenge was taking over as NCO in charge," she said. "I took over about half way through my deployment and had never been in charge of an entire office before and as soon as my first boss rotated out, I was in charge of three military and three civilians. Balancing that with staying on top of all the road construction was definitely a challenge.

"Managing road construction was definitely a challenge in itself," she said. "As soon as a project was awarded, I had to do mass coordination with Security Forces, Fire Department, Wing Safety and several other base agencies to ensure that not only the construction site set-up was going to be approved, but that the site was going to cause the least amount of traffic interruptions to keep everyone and everything moving."

Additionally, Sergeant Winkels said she learned a lot, not just from doing her job, but from talking with people she met.

"The best part of my deployment has been the people I have had the pleasure to work with," she said. "The contractors I work with on my asphalt projects are from Turkey, so it has been a fun experience learning that culture from them. The guys I worked with within the squadron have been the greatest to work for. We are family."

Going above and beyond the call of duty is not an uncommon thing for Sergeant Winkels according to her supervisor Master Sgt. Allen Sims, 509th CES programs flight superintendent

"Sergeant Winkels' high level of moral integrity and devotion to excellence were critical in managing construction contracts that involved not only large sums of Air Force money, but also balanced relationships between U.S. Armed forces members and host nation contractors and construction representatives," Sergeant Sims said. "Her constant pursuit of excellence guaranteed that construction projects were accomplished to required standards and ensured the best U.S. dollar spent in the JBB area of operation."