Hulman Field, Ind. --
On Jan. 5, 2009, our Civil Engineering Squadron once again stepped up to the plate and deployed to Baghdad, Iraq . Under the leadership of 1st Lt. Breck Schmidlkofer and Master Sgt. Paul Lybarger, half of our CE force (30 Airmen) were serving our country at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. Six of the Airmen were deployed as Third Country National (TCN) Escorts for four months and the remaining Airmen were deployed for six months with the mission to maintain Sather AB and the associated areas as required.
They maintained and improved the base as directed by the command staff. These efforts included critical projects such as road construction, repairing runways, repairing and expanding electrical distribution systems, repairing and expanding the portable water infrastructure, and conducting real-world and mock exercises concerning Base Readiness and weapons of mass destruction threats. They also performed many other essential duties as assigned during this deployment, but simply put, they received a lot of training and worked many hours in their specific career fields.
Even though they worked long and hard during their six or seven day work weeks, they were given time for other activities, including career development courses and testing. They also had access to work on physical fitness at the Sather AB gym which housed strength training equipment, aerobic equipment, and a small area for fitness "class" activities like Jujitsu, P9OX, etc. The on-base Services Squadron also held many events like basketball, volleyball, and soccer. In addition to fitness activities there were concerts, dance classes, poker tournaments, karaoke, and Bingo. Some members even found time to squeeze in some fishing at the small lakes surrounding Garrison Headquarters on Camp Victory. According to Schmidlkofer, "pictures do exist to provide evidence of successful outings!" You think they caught fish?
Some of the Airmen participated in a recurring dinner function called the "General's Dinner." It was conducted by an Iraqi General that hosted guests for dinner and included American military personnel. This gave those attending the opportunity to share cultural awareness. Several of our CE Airmen also had the opportunity to eat dinner with Turkish Nationals working as contractors at the Victory Base Complex.
All of this work did get our CE members noticed. The base had a "Team of the Month" award. In January this award was presented to our Equipment Shop members: Master Sgt. Paul Lybarger, Tech. Sgt. Michael Hoskins, Tech.Sgt. James Morgan, Staff Sgt. John Hacket, Senior Airman Andrew Hopkins, and Senior Airman Kenneth Dwigans. In June, this award was presented to our Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Shop members: Master Sgt. Roy Henderson, Staff Sgt. Thomas Gray, and Senior Airman Charles Davis. Among other awards received, they all earned the Iraq Campaign Medal.
We would like to give special recognition to Staff Sg.t Aaron Racey from our Engineering Shop. He received seven monthly/quarterly awards, two letters of appreciation, and was coined 13 times. One of the coins and one of the letters was presented to him from a Presidential Advance Agent. The coin is shaped like a football and reads "On behalf of the Vice President of the USA". This was for the design and layout of the parking plan using the GPS system. The drawings and plans were briefed at the Pentagon, White House, and aboard Air Force 2. The letter was for the logistical support of the Vice President's arrival in Bagdad. One of his other coins received was from the ACC Mission Support Director, a One-Star General, for outstanding overall performance. Congratulations Staff Sgt. Racey!
"There were occasions when the enemy reminded us that they still had the resources and spirit to fight," Schmidlkofer said, "Those events were reminders of how quickly life could change and the importance of the mission at hand. Although Services worked hard to offer a number of events, activities, entertainment, it was no substitute for home". So in April, the TCN escorts returned home safely, followed by the remaining Airmen who returned in July. We welcomed them all back October UTA. We would like to say how proud we are of them, their accomplishments, and for making the 181st CES stand out once again. Thank you.