IRT Deployment Benefits, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers - and Scouts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Generations of Boy Scouts will benefit from an innovative training project being led by the Air National Guard.

ANG Airmen, joined by Marine Corps and Army Reservists, have begun a series of major upgrades to the Boy Scouts' Camp Hinds in Raymond, Maine. The project is a partnership between Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Scouts through a program known as Innovative Readiness Training, or IRT, that allows military construction units to partner with nonprofit organizations during military training projects. In this case, the Airmen, Marines and Soldiers are conducting annual training at the Scout camp, working on their various construction trade skills as they cut in a new road, construct a new parking lot, build cabins for Scout staffers, and prepare the site for a new dining facility at the Scout camp.

"These projects will benefit not only today's Boy Scouts, but will last for generations," said Eric Tarbox, Scout Executive with the Pine Tree Council of Boys Scouts of America, which oversees the camp and Scouting programs in southern Maine. "And I think for years to come, the boys who are in Scouts now will be talking about how they were here when all this was going on. The benefit to Boy Scouts is significant."

Under the IRT program, the nonprofit organization, in this case the Boy Scouts, provides the materials needed for the various construction projects and the military provides the manpower. The IRT program at Camp Hinds is scheduled to take place over five consecutive summers, as military funding allows, beginning in 2014. In this first year, approximately 450 Airmen, Marines and Soldiers from about a dozen different states will be working on the project, said Maj. Allyson Benko, a member of the 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, who is serving as the officer in charge at Camp Hinds.

"The partnership between the Boy Scouts and the military could not be better," Benko said. "The two organizations are really working seamlessly together in a situation where both sides are benefitting."

Marine Corps Capt. Cory Bruce, a member of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion and the assistant officer in charge of the Camp Hinds project, said the Marines on the project have an opportunity to build technical proficiencies not only in their assigned Military Occupational Specialty, but allows the Marines to gain a big-picture view of the project.

"This allows the Marines on this project to take on a complex project and not just use a piece of equipment to dig a hole, but to gain an understanding of how the piece of the project they are working on fits in with the project as a whole," Bruce said.

During the second of the six two-week work rotations at the camp, the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard, from Selfridge Air National Guard Base contributed about three dozen Airmen to the project, joined by about two dozen Marines Reservists drawn from multiple units around the country and a half-dozen Rhode Island Air Guard Airmen who are part of the "duration team," who will be on site the entire summer.

Bruce said another benefit to the Marine detachment is that the current rotation features a number of very junior Marines and a larger percentage of more experienced Airmen.

"We are working to integrate the two teams, so those with the greater experience are able to work with the more junior personnel, maximizing the training in a joint environment," he said.

The work on the Scout camp is also of great benefit to the Civil Engineer Airmen, said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Talaga, superintendent of the group from Selfridge.

"Often on our drill weekends, it is hard for our guys to get much time on the equipment, given the many requirements on their time," he said. "On a deployment for training like this one, the Airmen are out, working in their Air Force Specialty Code, seeing progress on their assigned tasks. This is why our Airmen joined CE in the first place.

"This is an incredible morale builder and team building opportunity for our Airmen, to get out, get their hands on the equipment and, in this case, they are building something that gives right back to the community in the form of this Boy Scout camp," Talaga said.

For Senior Airmen Bradley Ziegler, 127th CES, the two weeks at the Boy Scout camp has been a positive experience.

"We've been able to hone our skills and work with projects we don't normally work on at home station," Ziegler said. "As far as the Boy Scouts, we are able to come out here, support their needs and get their facility up to par where the Scouts can utilize and enjoy their facilities in the manner that they should be able to."

And that's ultimately the goal, said Benko, the OIC.

"It is a situation here where our Citizen Airmen, Marines and Soldiers are gaining experience and a local organization is able to accomplish a project they likely could not have otherwise accomplished," Benko said. "It is a classic win-win scenario."

Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.