131st CES preps for wartime mission, supports underserved communities

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Innovative Readiness Training - it provides real-world training opportunities for units, helping them prepare them for their wartime missions while simultaneously supporting the needs of America's underserved communities.

The 131st Civil Engineer Squadron is currently working on just such a project in Window Rock, Ariz.

"It is quite an achievement for our CES personnel to perform community service and simultaneously work in their respective career field," said Col. Mark Beck, 131st Mission Support Group commander. "This represents what the 131st CES is all about."

In June 1993, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs established the Directorate for Civil-Military Programs. This idea originated from President Clinton's call to "Rebuild America" and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993, ultimately giving birth to Innovative Readiness Training (IRT).

IRT focuses on identifying underprivileged areas and sending Guardsmen to help make renovations and provide construction support, as well as receive military training specific to the civil engineer career field.

Guardsmen also have the ability to help out Native American organizations and provide benefits to the community by providing convenient service, said Lt. Col. Lane Endicott, 131st CES commander.

Crews on the current IRT project were assigned to three sites-- St Michael's Association for Special Education (SMASE), the Southwest Indian Foundation (SWIF), and remote homesteads, to place modular homes constructed at SWIF.

The SMASE project involves improving roads, drainage and water lines, and remodeling and repairing existing "hogans," or Navajo buildings. Guardsmen on this project also help serve physically and mentally handicapped children and adults from across the Navajo nation. The 131st CES crew continued the renovation of three hogans, each housing three to four children and their care-takers.

SWIF oversees construction of modular homes in a warehouse in Gallup, N.M., and then ships completed homes to needy families across the Navajo nation. Civil engineers also continued construction of two homes currently in the warehouse. The homes have three bedrooms and are 1,200 square feet with laminate flooring, hybrid electric/wood-burning stoves and asphalt shingles.

The 131st CE crew members worked at three homes connecting water utility lines, installing septic drainage fields for improved sanitation, and constructing drainage structures such as berms and ditches around homes to protect them from water running down nearby mountain slope.

"The Navajo area is impoverished, so the results of our work are amplified all the more," said Maj. Dan Nelsen, 131st CES operations officer. "The kids at SMASE and the families receiving homes through SWIF were all very grateful, as was the community at large. We provided a great help to these people. The area is extremely patriotic, and everywhere we went people were giving us hugs, shaking hands and thanking us for our service. We got to march in the Navajo Code Talkers parade in Window Rock, Ariz. on Wed., Aug. 14, which included an Honor Guard presentation of the US, Navajo, Arizona, Missouri and POW/MIA flags."

With their hard work, dedication and pure selflessness, the 131st Civil Engineer Squadron rightly gained an increased sense of pride in what they do.