JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and 673d Air Base Wing commander, participated in a 773d Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) immersion tour at JBER, Alaska, Sept. 1, 2020.
Aguilar’s tour allowed the squadron to highlight their Airmen and their crucial role in maintaining an $11.4 billion base infrastructure by providing emergency management, utilities, and the sustainment of the base’s infrastructure — directly supporting the installation's critical missions.
One aspect of the 773d CES’ responsibilities lies in managing the installation’s emergency management program.
“Our emergency management program tracks how JBER is prepared to respond to and recover from all hazards,” said John Werner, 773d CES Readiness and Emergency Management flight chief. “The goal is to save lives and recover the mission.”
The Readiness and Emergency Management flight works to ensure the base has workable plans in place for any emergency.
“Our job is to make sure our base can operate, no matter what and has a plan to go forward,” said Joseph Welboan, 773d CES emergency planner. “Our job is to keep those plans by asking, ‘what if?’ and coming up with the best solution.”
A key to remaining ready for emergencies is proper training and the 773d CES supports the installation by running chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear defense training. This includes how to don mission-oriented protective posture gear, as well as post-attack reconnaissance. The squadron adapted this training to the current COVID-19 climate, meeting mission requirements and boosting base readiness.
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Brandon Smith, 773d CES superintendent, said the importance of readiness can’t be understated.
“When we need to be ready to go in 24 hours, we can’t afford to burn valuable time,” Smith said. “Our people need to be proficient, and this goes hand in hand with readiness. If we only focus on how to survive in a chemical environment, we are not going to win the war. We need to know how to operate in that situation.”
A major part of the 773d CES readiness comes from the 673d Civil Engineer Group’s Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force days, from which they developed the idea for a Prime BEEF Olympics.
The Prime BEEF Olympics is a four-day training exercise comprising eight different events, highlighting both home station and deployed aspects of training. Teams of 25-30 engineers from different shops and experience levels across the group are led by a senior noncommissioned officer and lieutenant in a competition to foster teamwork and camaraderie.
“Our 2019 Prime BEEF Olympics was very successful,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Hosmanek, 773d CES Prime BEEF manager. “The event got attention from Eielson Air Force Base, who is planning on sending a team next year, and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, who wants to observe to spread the event to other civil engineer squadrons.”
After demonstrating the abilities of the 773rd CES’ Readiness and Emergency Management Flight, the squadron showed Aguilar their ability to provide utilities, construction and repairs by highlighting different shops and abilities to operate.
Throughout their many jobs on the installation, the 773d CES encounters many challenges. The squadron overcomes these challenges by continually striving for new and innovative processes in their workcenters.
“To be an engineer is to solve a problem,” said U.S. Air Force Major Brendan Dorsey-Spitz, 773d CES Operations Flight commander. “As CES, we innovate every single day, at every single job site. When my Airmen have a problem, they fix it.”
The squadron makes it a point to foster a culture of innovation across the flights.
“We have a vast group of innovative thinkers,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Steven Rector, 773d CES Operations Flight superintendent. “The Airmen have such creative minds. It is so exciting to hear their new perspective on how to make things better.”
After taking the day to see the impact and ability of the squadron, Aguilar was able to witness the direct impact the squadron has on the installation and its missions.