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Airmen build up reconstruction yard for drawdown

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Tech. Sgt. Orlin Rohde, 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator and project manager, directs Airman Marshall Hess as he drives a vibratory roller to prepare the grounds for a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

Tech. Sgt. Orlin Rohde directs Airman Marshall Hess as he drives a vibratory roller to prepare the grounds for a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. Sergeant Rohde is a 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator and project manager. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

Airmen prepare the grounds for a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. of the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

Airmen prepare the grounds for a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. of the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

An Airman stockpiles dirt with a bulldozer during construction of a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. The Airman is from the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

An Airman stockpiles dirt with a bulldozer during construction of a new container repair yard Nov. 2, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. By using containers repaired here instead of purchasing new ones, the projected savings total more than $100 million as military assets withdraw from Iraq. The Airman is from the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- Airmen of the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's Det. 6 here are not only in the business of pushing dirt, but also in pushing the U.S. military closer to drawdown in Iraq.

The Airmen are tasked to level off a Saddam Hussein-era munitions storage area to create a workspace for the restoration of more than 30,000 shipping containers. 

The containers are slated to transport Multinational Forces-Iraq assets and equipment back to home stations.

"We're preparing this site; moving thousands of yards of fill, cutting some areas and filling in some others," said Maj. Karlo Jajliardo, the construction team's commander. "And when we're done, we'll have a yard that's ready for the contractor to move in, mobilize and start preparing containers.

"A lot of the containers we have in-country simply aren't seaworthy. So instead of scrapping them or buying new ones, we can repair these containers to help the U.S. drawdown efforts at a much lower cost," Major Jajliardo said.

A new container costs about $5,000, but the cost of repairing one is estimated at $1,000. By using repaired units instead of buying new ones, the projected savings totaled more than $100 million. But before repairs can begin, a dry, solid workspace must be constructed.

With eight to 15 Airmen working daily on the approximately month long project, they expect to meet their Nov. 15 deadline.

"It's not just heavy machinery guys working on this project," said Tech. Sgt. Orlin Rohde, a Det. 6 heavy equipment operator. "We also have plumbers, (heating, airconditioning and ventilation), structures guys, engineering assistants and vehicle maintainers. We've come together as a good team."

Master Sgt. Robert Carter, the NCO in charge of the heavy equipment shop, said everybody on the team has stepped up their game for this project and is playing an active role in its total success.

An Iraqi-owned and operated business has a contract with the Army's 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) to repair the containers, but base officials realized they needed military muscle to get the restoration area ready in time.

"Because of the tight timeline and the need to get these containers repaired to support the responsible drawdown, military engineers were called in," Major Jajliardo said . "Using the equipment that we have -- provided by the Army and Air Force, in addition to some of the heavy equipment owned by some of the Army companies in Task Force Eagle -- we all came together to tackle this very large project.

"It was military troop labor who could respond fast enough and get the job done," he said. "It's not that we're the only ones who can get this done, but we can certainly be there when it's needed."

For the deployed engineers, who normally have an outside-the-wire mission working on local forward operating bases, this project offers up a change from their normal work day. In order to complete the mission, the Airmen were required to learn new skill sets and broaden their knowledge of other specialties.

"For a lot of the younger guys, they normally don't get experience the bigger equipment and on the bigger projects," Sergeant Rohde said.  "This (might be) their first time ever using the machinery, or they may be doing a totally different job then they're used to. "It's training and a job that's going to impact a whole country and the whole military in getting us out of Iraq."

Sergeant Carter said that big-picture impact is definitely something the CE Airmen keep in mind.

"Naturally, we feel a bit closer to the tip of the spear, so to speak," he said. "Later on down the line, when these guys start talking about the drawdown to their kids or their grandkids, they can say they were part of making history."

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