139th News

Innovative Readiness Training shapes volunteer resources into infrastructure for Boy Scouts

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Shannon Bond
  • 139th Airlift Wing
More than 30 Airmen with the 139th Airlift Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) arrived at Camp William Hinds in Raymond, Maine, on the evening of May 22. They were greeted by an established operation, complete with long term services personnel, a meeting hall, and air conditioned tents. They stepped out of those tents, into the crisp morning air, on May 23, ready to work. Their mission was to continue the construction of a 10,000 square foot dining facility. Construction of the structure began last year and is slotted for completion by August of this year.

Camp William Hinds is owned by the Pine Tree Council, Boy Scouts of America. The new construction includes the installation of trusses, plumbing, a septic tank, and grease trap. The camp covers more than 300 acres on Panther Pond and is part of the Sebago Lakes Region, about an hour north of Portland. It is home to training facilities, shooting ranges, cabins, a rope course, climbing wall, and more.

"This, for me, is a little more rewarding. I'm an assistant scout master and my boy is getting ready to become an Eagle Scout, so it's very comforting knowing that we're giving back and I get to give back, and [I] kind of get to do my own Eagle Scout project at the same time with this unit, it's a great unit," said Technical Sgt. Matt Mayes, engineering assistant with the 139th Airlift Wing, CES.

Ongoing work at the facility is part of the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program, which oversees military partnerships with communities throughout the nation. The Camp Hinds operation is a joint five-year mission that began with the construction of a road and continues with the building of the dining hall, leach field, shooting ranges, rehabilitation of the medical building, and many other projects. All of the planning (including blueprints), materials, and supplies for the new construction are contributed by local volunteers, companies, and organizations.

The military brings in personnel from all branches of the Guard and Reserves who have the skills and expertise to shape the donated resources into new buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. IRT accomplishes real world training while adding value to the local community. The 139th CES brings experience and a diverse talent pool to the Boy Scout project, including carpentry, plumbing, engineering, electrical, pest management, and operations.

"It's a benefit to understand everybody's skill level; next time we do get deployed, you know Afghanistan or Iraq, or any of those places, and they're embedded with other people, they'll have a better understanding," said Lt. Col. Tracy Beattie, 139th Airlift Wing CES commander. Beattie points out that construction methods differ throughout the country, and that it is a clear benefit to learn new methods.

"It will be a good learning experience for our structures folks... and our crane operators," she said. 

The operation is run by a different Officer In Charge (OIC) each construction season. The OIC manages the overall project and helps to coordinate the logistical needs of the many units that rotate through the work site. Each unit works on-site for a two-week period, picking up where the previous unit left off. The constant turn-over of personnel and skillsets presents a unique management challenge for both the incoming units and for those long-term personnel, referred to as duration staff, who are overseeing the project from April 10 until completion on August 31. Working for the OIC is the project manager, who works to keep the everyday operation on track.

"Last summer was all concrete and now we're doing wood framing," said Master Sgt. Doug Cyr, project manager for Camp Hinds. Cyr, assigned permanently to the 101st Engineering Air Refueling Wing in Maine, explains that the biggest challenge is personality and rank, especially when the main goal is to follow the blue prints as close as possible. He stresses that everyone works a little differently. 

"The 139th is very hard working, they move very quickly," he said.
Under normal construction circumstances, a job would begin and end with a single crew or company. The IRT environment resembles a deployed environment with constant personnel turnover and the need for flexibility.

IRT helps to prepare Airmen for the challenges of a deployment, said 1st Lt. Krista Abernathy, 139th CES

"We each have different strengths and weaknesses so we're learning from each other. It's about showing up and working with what you've got; Finding out where you're at once you get on site and rolling with what you have. Very, very, rarely does anyone show up and start something, it's usually a renovation of some sort, we don't usually build [forward operating bases] FOBs from the ground up," Abernathy said. 

The IRT program is a national initiative that helps to establish partnerships between civilian organizations and military units in order to provide real-world training. In return, military personnel add value to local communities by offering engineering, construction, infrastructure support, and medical services.

"A lot of times on Guard drills we don't get the opportunity to actually get the guys out there to get hands on materials, to build something...we just don't have the time, so it's nice because they can actually do their jobs, get things done that they are supposed to be doing," said Master Sgt. Erin Pearl, 139th CES Operations. She explains that the work at sites such as Camp Hinds helps to get Airmen signed off on skills that will help advance their careers.

The IRT program was recently awarded the Bright Ideas Award by Harvard University. To learn more about the Civil-Military program visit: http://irt.defense.gov/About.aspx