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Reserve Airmen train while giving back to Native Americans

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brian McGloin
  • 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As part of Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), Reservists from the 433rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, spent a couple of weeks away from desks and cubicles performing humanitarian work for the Red Lake band of Chippewa at the Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minnesota.

In the crisp, spring air of the North Star State, the 433rd CES worked in two separate sites a few miles apart on the reservation doing two vastly different jobs. One team built three two-bedroom homes, to be transported by truck about 30 miles away. The other team worked with the 446th Civil Engineering Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord , Wash., to install 12-inch water pipe 10 feet in the ground, connecting the water systems of two small communities and providing the water supply for new fire hydrants.

The home-building team worked in smaller, more specialized but loosely organized teams with electricians wiring the homes and plumbers installing pipe and fittings after carpenters framed the walls. All of the work follows local and national building codes, the workers follow safety rules, much like construction sites in the civilian world. With the exception of workers wearing Airman Battle Uniforms with their white hard hats, one may assume this is a regular construction site. A closer look, however, reveals more.

The sub-floor of a home in early state of completion has some odd seams in the plywood near one of the edges. It's not a mistake or sloppy work, it was done intentionally.

"We have to utilize all the resources we have," said Technical Sgt. Frank Mora, a carpenter with the 433rd CES.

Sergeant Mora said the sub-floors were held down with a strong construction adhesive in addition to more traditional nails to make the floor stronger.

"Guaranteed no squeaking," he said.

"We were on the roof doing shingles," said Master Sgt. Curtis Wilson, 433rd CES. "Everyone does a little bit of everything but each has their own specialty."

Sergeant Mora, a computer specialist in his civilian employment, said it was good to get outside away from a cubicle and to see Airmen getting hands-on training. As different as both projects were, they both shared similarities.

Project manager Chief Master Sgt. Bill Markgraf, 446th CES said the IRT work saved the reservation about $850,000 in labor costs while providing Air Force Reservists valuable and rare hands-on experience in their jobs. The reservation provided the building materials for both projects such as lumber, water pipe and fire hydrants, and the 433rd CES and 446th CES provided the labor.

"It's a win-win situation," he said.

Chief Markgraf also said production was a little slower than full-time construction workers because it was a training environment.

"These guys are doing well for the amount of training they had," he said. "None of these guys do it on the outside."

Chief Markgraf said the work will install about 12,000 feet of pipe connecting two small communities to a better water supply instead of their existing well water, which was very high in iron.

"It's kind of a dual-purpose line," he said.

In addition to fire hydrants every 500 feet, the water main has valves to isolate sections to allow for repairs or additions later. To aid in additions to the system later, 8-inch taps were installed where housing divisions may be built in the future, making tapping into the system much easier.