176th Wing members tackle infrastructure work in Puerto Rico

  • Published
  • By John Callahan
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs
Leave it better than you found it. A group of Alaska Air National Guard members will be putting that maxim to practice here for the next two weeks as they tackle a wide range of infrastructure projects and fix-it jobs.

Members of the 176th Civil Engineer Squadron, the 45 deployers are all experts in a wide range of technical specialties, including carpentry, civil engineering, plumbing, wiring, power production, air conditioning/heating, and heavy equipment operation. They are in Puerto Rico to practice these skills and train new unit members while at the same time helping the Coast Guard with much-needed improvements.

The squadron typically undertakes one such two-week assignment, called a deployment for training, each year. On previous such deployments its members built a schoolhouse in Ecuador; renovated facilities in Hawaii; installed fiber-optic lines in Israel; and upgraded roads, a training range and other infrastructure along California's border with Mexico.

"These deployments let us do two things," said Lt. Col. Ed Soto, the squadron's commander. "The most important thing, obviously, is the training. On a wartime deployment, a civil engineer squadron provides the infrastructure - everything from roads, runways and building maintenance to pest control - that make the operation of a modern base possible. A training deployment like this one helps us keep those skills sharp, and gives our new airmen the chance to work side-by-side with and get mentorship from our more experienced members.

"The beauty of doing our training this way," he added, "is that at we get all that training accomplished while at the same time doing a lot of much-needed real-world work. On each training deployment, our men and women have packed in as many fixes, upgrades and improvements as humanly possible in two or three weeks. Our hosts have always been very, very appreciative of all their hard work and the results they've brought."