Members of Cannon Air Force Base’s 27th Fighter Wing civil engineer squadron install an electrical circuit box while deployed in Kuwait last year. Courtesy Photo
By Darrell Todd Maurina
Civil engineers from Cannon Air Force Base racked up a long list of combat achievements during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Last month, they picked up a prestigious award for their efforts — the Curtin Award for small bases. Cannon had not won it in 15 years.
“I think the major reason we won is we had a massive deployment of our military, did an outstanding job while they were deployed, and … we continued doing what we needed to do here,” said Sam Pyeatt, Cannon’s deputy base civil engineer.
“We didn’t hear the excuse ‘All our guys are gone, we can’t do it here,’ we stepped up and made it happen.”
Lt. Brian Legacy and Carla Givens of the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron recapped some of Cannon’s long list of achievements:
• Cannon’s deployed civil engineers worked around the clock and used nearly every dump truck in Kuwait to transform 50 acres of desert into a parking ramp for 18 A-10 Warthog attack aircraft in only 20 days, they said. A few days later, they expanded it to accommodate even more planes.
• Then they converted a taxiway at a Kuwaiti air base into a second runway to serve more than 200 airplanes. They finished the job just two days before the initial strike on Saddam Hussein’s palace.
• Shortly after the attack, the civil engineers advanced to a captured Iraqi air base, got it ready to host combat air power within four hours, and within 72 hours created a forward-deployed air base ready to support 18 A-10 aircraft with more than 2,000 personnel. They also located and destroyed a misfired Navy Tomahawk missile before it could fall into the hands of the Iraqi forces.
• And soon after the fall of Baghdad, Cannon’s explosive ordinance disposal team deployed to conduct clearance operations at Baghdad International Airport and downtown Baghdad. The team disposed of 1,500 items of unexploded ordnance at the airport and destroyed 620 munitions stashed for use against American convoys.
The achievements were instrumental in Cannon’s earning the Curtin Award, officials said.
Senior Master Sgt. Ivan Godwin, Cannon’s fire chief, said Cannon was visited by a three-member evaluation team on Jan. 14 and learned Feb. 6 it had won the award.
“When the Curtin team came in (to evaluate us), it highlighted each of our areas,” Godwin said. “The big difference in a deployment situation is aircraft come back in surges and loaded with munitions and battle damage repair. You are dealing with unique incidents. They were also looking at how well we integrated and worked with the surrounding (fire) departments.
“We brought Clovis Fire Chief (Ron) Edwards in and we worked with the local departments and showed the joint training we do.”
One person at Cannon, Master Sgt. Darryl Duffy, provided services far beyond the boundaries of the Air Force or even American personnel, officials said.
“He was responsible for training over 9,000 coalition troops including the Marines, Army, and even some British folks, in (nuclear, biological and chemical) ground defense procedures,” said Master Sgt. Stefan Alford of Cannon Public Affairs, who deployed along with Duffy. “It was very beneficial training because we had 14 (Iraqi) missile launches toward Kuwait and we had to be prepared and know what to do.”
Cannon’s civil engineer squadron includes eight subgroups — “flights,” in military terminology — covering tasks ranging from fire protection and explosive ordinance disposal all the way to housing maintenance and resources, a flight dedicated to acquiring funds and coordinating computer systems.
Pyeatt said working as a civil engineer for the Air Force provides him opportunities he could never get in the corporate world.
“I like the challenges and responsibilities that you get working as a civilian here,” he said. “I think the training that we provide our people with here is above and beyond what a lot of outside companies can provide to their folks. Along with the training we give them a responsibility that they get earlier in their career than they could in civilian business, and we provide them superior training.”