Update from Iraq - 108th Civil Engineers exceeding expectations
By Master Sgt. Louis Conzo, 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron
/ Published February 27, 2010
February 27, 2010 -- In December 2009, the 108th Civil Engineer Squadron left Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for a six month federal activation to Baghdad, Iraq.
Though it took more than a week from start to finish, the 108th and members from several other Air National Guard and active duty Air Force units came together to take over the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.
Located at Baghdad International Airport, and surrounded by a joint forces base known as the Victory Base Complex, Sather Air Base is a major hub of in/outbound flights for the region. More than 1,300 service Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and civilians call Sather home for tours lasting as long as 12 months. The 447th is comprised of 260 members from around the country and a dozen different units which brings together not only the civil engineers but also EOD and Force Protection escorts. The commander, Lt. Col. Paul Novello, brought his entire command staff to facilitate the smooth operation of such a large squadron. Captains Luis Rosario and Eric Balint, 2nd Lt. Robert Mendez and Chief Master Sgt. Tim Grover, all form the 180th CES, are rounded out by the 108th LRS 1st Sgt. "Broadway Joe" McKenna. Together this group of experienced professionals has made great headway against a substantial number of outstanding work-orders while planning for the rapid drawdown of personnel and equipment currently on tap for the U.S. military. This has included planning for a 100 percent increase in the transient population, and coordinating among several agencies and organizations the needs and projected shortfalls while conducting a squadron wide inventory of all assets totaling over $15 million. Chief Grover said recently, "It really is the same work, just a different base."
Several members of the 108th were at this location in 2008. One of them, Master Sgt. Robert Ryan said "With the drawdown, the ops tempo is lower. We still have a great deal of work to do, but everything doesn't have to be done 'Now, now, now!' like last time."
With the reduced tempo, a good number of members are making an opportunity for self improvement. Staff Sgt. Madarrell McCulllough is one of eight engineers enrolled in after-hours college classes through the University of Maryland. "This is a good opportunity to advance myself in the military and in my personal career. I can also set an example to my children, making education a priority," McCulllough said.