Planning the Key During African Trip

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
As the owner of a small industrial and commercial construction company, Jeff Talaga has developed plenty of building plans. Few, however, have proven as challenging as the project he worked on in Africa, while wearing the unifiorm of the Michigan Air National Guard.

Master Sgt. Talaga served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the re-construction of a technical school building on Akota air base in Accra, Ghana, during an April deployment with the 127th Civil Engineering Squadron, which is based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit.

"This is definitely not a traditional construction project," Talaga said during a break from the work. "What works at home, may not be able to work here."

A detachment of about 30 personnel from Selfridge made the trip to Africa to work on the project. The Selfridge team had to bring all of their own tools and small building supplies, such as bolts and fasteners, with them from home. They also had to deal with stifling heat and humidity, which limited work hours during the day.

"Part of the challenge was we really didn't know what to expect when we get here. As an example, I've never had to deal with mixing concrete in the heat and humidity of Africa," Talaga said. "Fortunately, the Ghanians have been very easy to work with. When we ordered a concrete mixer, the man who owned the machine came along with it and provided some guidance," he said.

Talaga has been a member of the Michigan Air National Guard since 1984 and now serves as the superintendent of the Structural shop for the 127th CES at Selfridge.

"This unit has been through a number of deployments together over the years," said Maj. Tom Sierakowski, the officer in charge during the Ghana trip. "We have people like Talaga who have developed a great deal of expertise and we are able to rely on that during a challenging project such as this one."

Talaga said being in the Guard provides him a perfect work opportunity.

"I say I am a part-time construction company owner, part-time in the Guard and part-time stay at home dad, which works out just about how I want it," he said.