By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey, Delaware Air National Guard Public Affairs
Aug 21, 2007 - 2:37:36 PM
The Airmen left New Castle, Delaware Aug. 4 and return home this Saturday Aug. 18. All 46 members are from the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron, part of the 166th AiForty-six Airmen from the Delaware Air National Guard are sweating it out on the U.S.-Mexico border, working for two weeks installing steel panel fencing at two work locations south of Yuma, Arizona. They are supporting Operation Jump Start, a mission that began last year using National Guard troops to help repair existing fences and walls and building new ones to secure the Southwest border.rlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard based at New Castle County Airport, Delaware.
The Airmen are working in two teams directly across from Mexico, next to the town of San Luis, Arizona in the southwest corner of the state. One team is slightly east of San Luis, and one is slightly west. The borders of Arizona, California and Mexico converge 20 miles to the north.
The teams are exceeding expectations for fence construction and installing large light poles.
The teams are installing metal fence panels, eight foot wide and 15 feet tall, made of one-eighth inch thick steel panels that must be welded together. On their first work day the teams installed 91 panels, breaking the previous daily record of 35 set by other National Guard troops. Over two work weeks the teams have installed about 1,100 panels along nearly 9,000 feet of the border.
The unit also installed four 50-foot tall light poles in one day, exceeding the normal installation rate of two light poles per day. The team also did some road maintenance, operating sand and water rollers on the desert roads to prepare the surfaces for heavy equipment use.
"We are doing a lot of structural, heavy equipment, electrical and welding work," said officer-in-charge Maj. Elias Danucalov, assistant base civil engineer, 166th Civil Engineer Squadron, Delaware Air National Guard, who is working on site with the unit. The teams used various construction equipment including water trucks, track hoes, buck hoes, front-end loaders.
The Airmen are part of Task Force Diamondback, which is responsible for building construction and repairs, welding, road construction and maintenance, and fence building and repair. The Airmen remain on U.S. soil, working just feet from Mexican lands.
The weather has been extreme. Maj. Danucalov said temperatures were 110 degrees last week and up to 120 this week where the teams are working, with temperatures slightly less in downtown Yuma where temperatures were 106 last week to 113 this week. The Airmen experienced just about 30 seconds worth of rain one morning.
Significant precautions were taken with construction safety and heat safety. Maj. Danucalov said the unit brought two Delaware Air Guard base fire department EMTs who monitored people all day on site and kept a water drinking log to ensure people kept hydrated.
The Airmen commute 30 miles one-way each day across barren desert land to get to the work sites from their quarters near Yuma. They have seen a number of desert creatures, including coyotes, snakes, scorpions, spiders and sand fleas.
Summing up the experience in the desert, Maj. Danucalov said, "Our people were satisfied that they could contribute something to national security." He added, "Everyone was exhausted by the heat at the end of each day, and people were in bed by 8:00 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. each night."
"Our folks have set a tall standard for other units to measure. I am immensely proud of their strong sense of duty as well as their enviable achievements in only two weeks time," said Lt. Col. Mike Castaldi, commander of the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron in New Castle.
The Yuma Sector (Arizona) of the U.S. Border Patrol patrols 118 miles of border with Mexico, between the Yuma-Pima County line in Arizona and the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. The sector has responsibility for Yuma, La Paz and Mojave Counties in Arizona, the Eastern-most areas of Imperial, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties in California, and the four Southern-most counties in Nevada, according to the U.S. Border Patrol web site.
A similar number of Airmen from the same Delaware Air Guard civil engineer unit deployed to the Southwest border a year ago in August of 2006 working for two weeks in the desert in Douglas, Arizona, located along the U.S.-Mexico border and southeast of Tucson. For that mission the unit maintained roads, hauled dirt, and surveyed and repaired barbed wire fence.
National Guard troops are not armed in Operation Jump Start. Only border patrol agents are armed, and they provide any protection that might be needed by National Guard troops. The U.S. Border Patrol is the lead agency, and National Guard members play a support role and take direction from the Border Patrol. If National Guard members happen to see illegal aliens attempting to cross the border, National Guard members only report this to border patrol agents. Only the border patrol agents are permitted to chase or apprehend suspected illegal aliens.