We few, we happy few

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Louis Lilley
  • 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander
There is no better way to describe the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron than the well-known line from the St. Crispin's Day Speech of Shakespeare's "Henry V:" From any given angle, our numbers are small, yet we band together to tackle very large and diverse taskings.

Ready Mobility
Our engineers constantly maintain McConnell's built infrastructure. Through carefully planned maintenance and repair schedules, we ensure 21,518,082 square feet (478 football fields) of airfield pavement and associated lighting are ready for 24-hour use, even during the harshest winter conditions.

We monitor and manage McConnell's utility systems to provide uninterrupted electricity, water, natural gas and storm and sanitary sewer systems to allow basewide missions to continue.

Our firefighters provide crash rescue abilities that allow various aircraft to operate from the base with minimal risk. In addition, our Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians clear the Smoky Hill range, allowing valuable training for multiple units to continue.

We execute these tasks daily to ensure the wing's mission is unhindered.

Ready Airmen
Each day our emergency responders provide training and services that keep Airmen safe and deployment ready. This includes two fire stations that are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toprovide structural, hazardous material and medical initial response capabilities.

Firefighters also assume incident command during emergency responses, and our Readiness and Emergency Management technicians provide emergency operations command and control capabilities that mirror civilian capabilities. This allows for a seamless effort for on and off base emergencies.

The 22nd CES EOD technicians also respond both on base and across Kansas and Oklahoma, to protect military and civilians from old and unserviceable military munitions.
While supporting the base and community, we also find time to train. Since our duties are physical, fitness has always been a core staple of the engineer's daily schedule.

As a result, three mornings a week, the 22nd CES sweats it out in the gym. Our firefighters condition themselves each afternoon for the intense heat and demands of fire rescue.

Our EOD technicians also train five days per week, culminating in a weekly five-mile ruck march, carrying 40 to 50 pounds, simulating battle loads carried up and down Afghanistan's mountainsides.

There is absolutely no room for physical fitness test failures in a team that knows lives are on the line on the other side of the burning doorway. The 22nd CES trains constantly because we know that lives are at stake if we cannot reach our objective in a high stress environment.

In addition to the routine training, each month the entire squadron is engaged in Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Training, to hone wartime skills.

A great example is the new bathhouse built in the Krueger Recreation Area. While supporting the McConnell community, the project allowed the 22nd CES to organize and execute the work in a manner similar to deployed conditions, using our skilled civilian work force as trainers to the military.

Ready Base
In addition to emergency response and training, the 22nd CES takes care of the base's infrastructure. Nowhere is that more evident than in our dormitory and military family housing programs. We continue to maintain both, investing $4.2 million in 188 dorm rooms and $5.6 million in 207 MFH units in the last year. Regularly scheduled housing town halls and dorm councils provide avenues to enhance the management of both, bringing quality to our Airmen and families when off duty.

The 22nd CES continuously repairs, renovates and replaces 584 buildings and 1,441 facilities basewide, while managing 4,365,900 square feet of space to meet strict guidance on space authorizations and energy consumption..

We also improve the environment in and around McConnell, remediating 31 past contaminated sites, 12 off site and 19 on base, while preventing further damage. We maintain 3,937 acres of grounds, keeping the grass mowed, leaves removed, weeds cleared and trees planted base wide. We are also building test wind turbines at some of our remote sites in an attempt expand McConnell's renewable energy program.

Superior Warfighter Support
Engineers are not confined to only supporting warfighters. In post-Iraqi invasion warfare, we are learning that engineers, along with other traditional base support functions, are the proverbial teeth rather than the tail.

Provincial reconstruction teams have learned the value in having engineers use their building skills to leverage negotiations with local leaders, and combat units at forward locations have also learned engineers can improve the quality of living conditions in very austere locations.

Our engineers deployed to 12 different locations in the last year alone, supporting both traditional in-garrison and joint expeditionary tasked missions. We continue to support the warfighters at home and abroad, with 13 leaving before Christmas to help close the mission in Iraq.

We also have a team at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to help repair their airfield in support of President of the United States operations. When Haiti was devastated by an Earthquake last January, the first two engineers out the door were civilians, deploying with our 184th CES counterparts. The 184th and 931st CES continue to train and work with the 22nd CES, both at McConnell and downrange. Our readiness shop has taken the first steps of total force integration, with two 931st CES engineers permanently collocated with our Readiness and Emergency Management Flight.

Every day, the 22nd CES supports the Wing's priorities, but like King Henry V of England, surrounded by the French in the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundreds Years War, every day we are outnumbered. For the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron, the constant barrage comes from aging infrastructure and incessant emergency responses. Fortunately, we few, we happy few, stand ready and trained for the challenge.