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CE works SMART

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

They operate outside the boundaries of normal 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron work. Their mission: to make sure every last installation dormitory and living area is maintained while tending to work order requests as they come in.

They are the small maintenance and repair team, also known as SMART, of Ali Al Salem Air Base. They build upon foundations established long ago to further Airmen morale and mission capability.

“SMART is a small collection of highly trained craftsmen,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steele, 386th ECES electrical systems craftsman. “A hodgepodge of men with a set of skills and a specific purpose in this world. CE is all about construction but SMART is more of a surgical knife. We offer the ability to take a project and tackle all issues with a small team.”

As the NCO-in-charge, Master Sgt. Joseph Sousa, 386th ECES water and fuels system maintenance specialist, is able to witness the efforts put in by the team and ensures that their opinions are valued and innovative solutions are welcome.

“We’re comprised of five members,” Sousa said. “We offer the flexibility of a multi-crafted, multipurpose team with the ability to work independently as a single entity.” It ultimately allows the team to focus on one task at a time, eliminating the “shifting of priorities” that bigger shops commonly do while multitasking.

Each are from a different section of civil engineering: plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), structures and electrical. Their team is smaller compared to the rest of CE, however it has its perks in the deployed environment.

“In a deployed environment like this, you become more tightly-knit,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Oswald, 386th ECES heating, ventilation and air conditioning craftsman. “It’s easier to get to know each other when you spend time together all the time.”

After eating breakfast together, the clock starts ticking: there’s always a list of items to tend to every day. Bathrooms need remodeling, air conditioning units require cleaning and walls call for being painted. These tasks aren’t specific enough nor large enough to warrant many Airmen tending to.

As Ali Al Salem continues serving as a platform for enduring combat power, units such as the 386th ECES build upon foundations established long ago to further Airmen morale and mission capability. With the precise impact SMART can provide, it sets a substantial amount of responsibility upon the small team. But entering their tent, one couldn’t tell such pressure existed. A few workout machines and a small living area populates the tent, leaving little room to maneuver but a lot of space for them to enjoy their company, something Steele says is part and parcel for CE Airmen to function properly.

“CE as a whole functions on the bonds you have with your coworkers,” Steele said. “Even more so when you’re deployed. In larger shops, there may be 4-6 crews all doing different jobs, so it’s easy to get some variety both with people and jobs. This can be a good and bad thing for a shop like ours, but luckily, we all get along great and have become really close in the short time we’ve worked together.”

According to Sousa, it all starts with skilled and motivated Airmen that want to improve quality of life for all denizens. This A-Team performing quality of life maintenance and improvements at Ali Al Salem continue to flex their versatile capabilities to aid the 386th ECES’s mission in ways normal shops cannot. Above all, they do so with a sense of camaraderie uniquely belonging to a deployed atmosphere such as the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s.