61st Civil Engineers ‘Bring the Heat’ in Week-Long Exercise at March Air Reserve Base

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Katelin Robinson
  • Space Base Delta 3

It was a toasty 94-degree Southern California day when Space Base Delta 3 leadership decided to hit the road up to March Air Reserve Base to visit our 61st Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadron members while they took part in a week-long regional training exercise July 24-28, 2023.

Col. Mia Walsh, SBD 3 commander, Lt. Col. Brian Vance, SBD 3 vice commander, and SBD 3 First Sergeant, Master Sgt. Edward Caldwell were greeted by Capt. Timothy Moffett, operations flight commander, and Capt. Colin Mitchell, operations engineering chief, both from the 61st CELS who were in MOPP 2 gear, and served as exercise commanders as well as tour guides for the command team visit.

The training center at March ARB is one of only five Total Force Civil Engineer training sites in the country and is the only training site on the West Coast. Led by Senior Master Sgt. Reuben Dominguez, 163rd Training Regional Squadron superintendent, the instructor team consists of seven members who run 26 classes per year. The location is used to mimic an austere deployed environment and allows civil engineers the ability to refine their skills building a bare base as well as honing their Rapid Airfield Damage Repair expertise.

Seven CE Air Force Specialty Codes, or jobs, are instructed on during the course to include: Electrical Systems; Electric Power Production; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration; Pavements and Construction Equipment; Structural; Liquid Fuel Systems Maintenance; Engineering; and Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Albeit not the most glamorous jobs in the Air Force, with unofficial titles like ‘Dirt Boys,’ and wartime/contingency mobile teams affectionately titled Prime BEEF, these jobs are key to not only erecting and maintaining required infrastructure to sustain operations but to repair damage in the event of a major attack.

“The two main priorities when creating a bare base are to ensure we have water and an airfield,” explained 1st Lt. Ross Lunsford, chief of operations and engineering, Space Launch Delta 30, while simultaneously explaining the very elaborate Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit, which creates potable water for the base. He also described the value of this exercise, “It gives our troops invaluable hands-on training in building shelters, establishing utilities and working in contingency operations, which ultimately prepares them for the two-week Silver Flag course.”

Establishing an airfield and making certain it can be repaired when damaged is another vital component to building a bare base. The ability to conduct uncontested aerial warfare and airlift operations close to the theatre of operations has become increasingly difficult due to adversary long range offensive capabilities. These capabilities along with anti-access area denial weapon usage requires our CE Airmen to be experts in Rapid Airfield Damage Repair. RADR is an essential element of enabling air base resiliency and continuation of operations after an attack and can be conducted under multiple conditions including, extreme weather, chemical, biological, radiological, and degraded environments. This ability ensures the rapid projection and application of US military power around the globe.

Staff Sgt. British Moore, logistics planner, 61st CELS is typically behind a computer ordering materials, equipment, and resources for her CE teams, however, for the exercise she took a more hands on approach to learning exactly how her maneuvers behind the screen equate to tremendous impacts on the ground.

“Being apart of this exercise and actually seeing the equipment I order gives me a greater perspective on just how much CE does,” expressed Moore, who was coined by the SBD 3 First Sergeant for not only stepping out of her comfort zone but for being proactive in learning everything she can to assist the team, including MOPP’ing up.

During the exercise, Moore supported the Mobile Aircraft Arresting System which is responsible for catching airplanes coming in too fast to ensure a safe landing. The MAAS system contains multiple configurations which allows it to be set up on various surfaces. “I have a greater appreciation for the different jobs our CE members have and understand how the equipment and materials I order impact the larger operation. Each component matters,” said Moore. 

The command team transitioned to lunch with the Airmen in the portable dining facility, adorned with camouflage mesh netting to continue the feeling of simulated deployment. Walsh described how impressed she was with the multitude of jobs CE does and the importance of this refresher training. 

Moffett echoed the importance of this training week, “This has been a great experience for our Airmen who aren’t conducting tactical and operational jobs like this day-to-day,” he said. “It’s also been a wonderful chance to collaborate with our CELS counterparts from Vandenberg Space Force Base and find opportunities for future collaboration and training initiatives.”

Check out more pictures from the week here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAPAtH