127th Civil Engineers DFT, get Cultural Awareness

  • Published
  • By MSgt. Denice Rankin
  • MI-JFHQ/PA
     The 127th Civil Engineer Squadron, under the command of Maj. Stephen Ward, returned March 22 from Israel where they deployed for training (DFT). The 47-member team flew form Selfridge on March 5, 2008 to Signorelli, Italy and from there to Nevatim Air Base, near Arad, Israel. When the CES arrived in Israel on Friday, they hurriedly offloaded the aircraft and cleared the runway before noon out of respect for the Jewish Sabbath, which starts at sundown.
     During the DFT, there was a good balance of work and cultural awareness. On Friday evening, the Israeli air force hosted their traditional Friday Shabbat
(Sabbath) evening meal and invited the Americans. Before dinner, approximately 200 Israeli and American airmen rose to their feet, the men covered their heads as a young Israeli airmen said the Shabbat prayer in Hebrew. After the meal, the highest-ranking officer rose and spoke in Hebrew to the airmen, discussing the workweek and evaluating their service. The officer was going to present a decadent three layer chocolate cake covered in coconut to one of the airmen, but the airmen graciously offered the cake to the American Air Force guests. The Civil Engineers didn't know it at the time, but this cake would prove to be a good balance for the salads that they were to be served at the breakfast meal.
     On Sunday, the first workday formation was at 5 a.m. The engineers maintained a half-workday schedule, usually 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
     On Sunday, the first duty day, the 7:30 arrival at the dining facility may have led some of the DFT Americans to conclude there was a hidden Israeli agenda to get them to eat their vegetables. Already having worked two hours, the engineers were greeted by lean young Israeli Airmen who had prepared cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast, a variety of salads and sugarless yogurt. Also great bread and pastries. By day three, eggs were on the menu, and one day, perhaps out of sympathy for the Americans who longed for bacon, the Israeli hosts served deep-fried kosher hotdogs for the morning meat entrée.
     The work that the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron accomplished was phenomenal.
There were two worksites: the Munitions Maintenance Facility (MMF) and the dormitories where the American Armed Forces.
     The crew at the MMF, under the supervision of Chief Master Sgt. Greg Robinson, constructed a 25-foot concrete masonry wall, two partial walls, and installed a septic tank with all the required piping. Chief Robinson was part of the advanced party team of Technical Sgt. Mike Pattee, Senior Master Sgt.  Matt Magiera, Senior Master Sgt. Scott and Master Sgt. Mark Fisher. By the time the main body of the 127th Civil Engineers arrived, the advanced party had taken down the walls that the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron were there to reconstruct.
     On any given day, there appeared to be a minimum of four different jobs going on at the same time at the site. Men with cement mixers, fork trucks, shovels, trowels, saws, welders, and that all just at the MMF. there was also a full gamut of activity and construction happening at the dormitories.
     Under the supervision of 2nd Lt. Minesh Patel, the engineers working on the dorms installed ductwork and wiring for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in two "Igloo" style dorms. Their job required a great balancing act to complete the job with the materials on hand. Some improvising was necessary to match up the wrong size vents with offset drywall opening cut by another team. It was determined that it was easier to change the wall opening then to try to obtain the correct size vents. So the engineers did what they do best, they engineered another successful plan to finish the job.
     The acting first sergeant, Master Sgt. Mark Fisher, coordinated a weekend teambuilding event to offer the engineers some cultural awareness and allow them to get outside the "wire" of Nevatim which is in the middle of the desert. Master Sgt. Fisher worked in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv before the Engineers arrived in Israel to arrange a tour bus with a guide. The tour was within the "safe zone" of Israel, and the engineers saw some of the oldest and most historical sites on earth. Everyone knew ahead of time to bring extra money to pay for accommodations in Tel Aviv and the bus tour to see Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem.
     At the final breakfast meal at the base, Israeli Col. Amir Harpaz praised the Michigan Air Guard 127th Civil Engineer Squadron for their workmanship on both of the projects they completed while at Nevatim Air Base. He stated, "What began as a partnership has developed into a friendship."
     It is certain that Israel is grateful to the U.S. as they stand as allies. Israel has fought a battle against unconventional warfare (terrorism) longer than most countries still standing. Long before their "statehood" established in 1918 when they came under English rule, Israel has known either war or servitude to conquering rulers. Is it any wonder the tiny country is determined to fight to stay free? A t-shirt on display at a shop stated "Guns and Moses". Perhaps only in Israel can this statement be understood.