Story by Airman First Class Elise Stout, 126th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
EXMOUTH, Western Australia - After a three-day flight, the Illinois Air National Guard’s 126th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) based at Scott Air Force Base, landed in Australia Aug. 24, ready to unload tools for the deployment for training (DFT).
The entire team of 35 civil engineers, ranging from electricians to operation managers, demolished a 5,000-square-foot building and surveyed the ground before a new pedestal was installed for a C-band radar satellite at Holt Naval base in Exmouth, Western Australia.
The 126th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Marc Eccher, of O’Fallon, Ill., said he knew what his Airmen were capable of in a short amount of time.
“Prior to the deployment, we planned long and hard on developing a list of what was needed to get the project started, but there were some unforeseen site conditions,” he said. ”Our team was resourceful and flexible, overcoming shortfalls and not losing any time in getting the project started.”
The project was a chance for the 126th CES members to work with many different people in one setting. Eccher explained this was a good thing to work with the Air Force Space Command, the Space and Missile System Center and with the Australian Navy to develop this project.
Capt. Nathan Smith, with the 118th CES, of Nashville, Tenn., and the officer in charge of the project, said there were some challenges getting materials.
“This is due to the unusual procurement methods being used; materials are difficult to have brought in,” said Smith.
Many of the materials and tools used were brought in from Perth Australia, more than 100 miles away. Master Sgt. George Kruse, of Troy, Ill., went to the local hardware store almost daily to get materials needed to complete the mission as efficiently as possible.
This was a new training experience for many of the Airmen.
“I mainly did demolition of fire alarms and electrical. All we used for that were drills and sawzalls. However, we did have to use a harness for heights that I have never used before, ” said Senior Airman Phillip Gray, of Trenton, Ill., an electrician for the 126th CES.
Some of the members on this DFT had not completed much demolition training. Completing this DFT gave them the chance to work with the equipment that makes demolition possible.
“The overall importance (of this mission) is so the satellite can provide both United States and Australian governments with space tracking capabilities,” said Smith.
The United States will have troops based at Holt Naval Communication Station once the project is finished to operate the satellite and watch over the communications building.
Even with the lack of materials, the 126th CES had no issues completing the assignments given.
“I am really impressed with how fast the work was completed. You guys did a great job,” complemented Smith on the last night before heading home.
As the troops boarded the plane to start the journey home, many discussed the DFT and all the new experiences.
“This DFT is one for the record books,” said Staff Sgt. Rory Biggs, of Troy, Ill., the operations manager of the 126th CES.