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Swamp Fox Airmen improve quality of life at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Caycee Watson
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

The South Carolina Air National Guard sent nearly 60 Airmen to Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii for the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron’s 2019 Deployment for Training. Bellows is an Air Force gem with its own private beaches and beautiful Hawaiian scenery, but the Swamp Foxes arrived to work hard and leave their mark by heavily improving the base.

The Swamp Fox Prime Base Engineer Expeditionary Force (Prime BEEF) Airmen worked alongside Royal Canadian Engineers assigned to 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia and were the third and final unit in the DFT rotation at Bellows, following Connecticut’s 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron and Maine’s 101st Civil Engineer Squadron.

The major projects during the two-week training were constructing a bunkhouse, tree removal, pouring concrete sidewalks and total renovation of the base gym.

“This Deployment for Training gives us an opportunity to come here and work together as a whole unit on projects and allows our Airmen to cross train in different fields that they’re not used to so that when we do go downrange, we’re prepared for it,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Douglass, the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron DFT officer in charge.

During the DFT, Swamp Fox engineers took advantage of the opportunity to improve and learn new skills. Firefighters worked on tree removal, concrete pouring and building construction, electricians worked on drywall, plumbers worked with the electricians. Just about every job specialty received hands-on training in another area.

“The main reason we’re doing our DFT here is training,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Kelley, the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron durational DFT officer in charge. “We come out here to do tasks and projects that we’re not able to at home and on the other hand too, we’re providing a service to Bellows Air Force Station.”

Bellows is a Morale Welfare and Recreation station with a mission to “provide exceptional recreation, training and leisure programs to enhance combat effectiveness through affordable, customer-focused services that support the well-being and morale of the Department of Defense personnel and their guests.”

By conducting this DFT at Bellows Air Force Station, the Swamp Fox civil engineers along with the Canadian engineers and previous units were able to help improve the base while at the same time leveraging a solid training opportunity for Air National Guard units.

U.S. and Canadian civil engineers worked in teams throughout the construction of the bunkhouse that began with the first unit rotation. The milestone from Bellows was to have it weather tight with the roof, siding, windows and exterior doors completed by the end of the final rotation.

The Swamp Foxes worked tirelessly installing interior walls, plumbing, and electrical outlets while meeting the goal and finishing with a shingled roof, sealed windows, exterior doors in place and a first coat of primer painted on the siding. The building will accommodate 30 people and allow cheaper trip costs for future DFTs.

The ironwood trees growing all around Bellows are invasive, non-native plants to the island, according to Maj. Christina Kreps, Detachment 2, 18th Force Support Squadron commander at Bellows. Many of the trees had reached their age limit and Bellows faced the threat of trees falling. During their two weeks at Bellows, the Swamp Foxes soared beyond expectations, cut down more than 170 trees and removed 25 stumps, saving the Air Force more than fifty thousand dollars in tree removal services.

The final major project led by the Swamp Fox civil engineers was placing sidewalks at the guest cabins. Teams of 169th CES Airmen and Canadians from various civil engineer job specialties left Bellows with nine newly dug, concreted and finished sidewalks straight to the cabin doors.

“The biggest benefit is the training, getting your hands in and working together as a team. It makes us a tighter unit and helps us to work more efficiently. We’re better together,” said Douglass.

During the two-week Deployment for Training, the Swamp Foxes gained priceless training while improving safety and quality of life at Bellows Air Force Station. The 169th CES Airmen will deploy this winter, making this hands-on training and exchanging of skillsets instrumental to their success as they carry out their deployed mission overseas.