H.E. HOLT NAVAL COMMUNICATION STATION, Australia -- Thirty-four members of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176 Wing wrapped up three weeks' worth of work today at this remote military base in Western Australia.
Thirty-one of the 34 deployers were from the wing's 176 Civil Engineer Squadron, with the few support personnel making up the remainder.
"The deployment went very much as we'd hoped," said Lt. Col. Jack Evans, the squadron's commander. "We poured concrete, installed lighting, painted, installed new power circuits and ventilations systems - you name it. It's not easy to get this level of intense, focused training back home."
To maintain a state of readiness, Guard members are required to regularly practice their skills. These types of short, volunteer deployments - called DFTs, or Deployments for Training -- allow the guard members to sharpen those skills while accomplishing real-world work.
In this case, that work involved preparing a building here to receive a space radar antenna which the U.S. Air Force's Space Command is in the process of moving from the Caribbean island of Antigua. Once completed, it will operate under the auspices of Space Command under a joint agreement with the Australian Department of Defense. The radar will be able to accurately track up to 200 objects a day, from satellites and space launches in Asia to "space junk" dropped by astronauts during space walks.
Space Command officials expressed appreciation for the Guard members' effort and results.
"These guys came to work focused and prepared every day," said Air Force Capt. Nathan Smith, the officer overseeing the project. "Right away it was obvious the level of skill they brought to bear. Many of their senior noncommissioned officers are, outside the Guard, professionals in their chosen fields, and it really showed. It was a pleasure watching them mentor the young guys and move the project along."
To save money and provide military personnel with much-needed training, the project for the last 10 months has brought in rotating teams of Air National Guard civil engineer squadrons to do much of the work. The Alaska Air Guardsmen comprise the seventh of eight planned rotations. This approach is expected to help save $20-$30 million off the project's original $70 million cost.