Colorado Guardsmen Build Hope, Schoolhouse in the Southwest

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
The 240th Civil Engineer Flight, Colorado Air National Guard, recently began construction at St. Michaels Association for Special Education school in Arizona.

The effort to upgrade the campus for special needs children and adults is part of the National Guard Bureau's Innovative Readiness Training program, a civil-military affairs program that links military units with civilian communities for community projects, which may otherwise go unfunded.

The school planning and facility design took 18 months for the IRT team and the 240th CEF in partnership with the Southwest Indian Foundation.

Over the course of the next five years, civil engineering units from across the Air National Guard will spend their two-week annual training at SMASE to construct five new buildings across the campus.

"When I took a look at this project at St. Michaels, I thought this was a no brainer.  This is a perfect fit for our long-term training venue for our Air National Guard civil engineers," said Master Sgt. Charles "Chip" Stoyer, IRT project coordinator.

The 240th CEF has been involved with this specific IRT program, implementing innovative planning and design ideas along with providing project management and overview, since the inception of this project almost a year and a half ago.

"Working with the IRT program is very similar to working in a contingency environment such as Afghanistan, Iraq or being deployed to another contingency area, where the environment is fast-paced and there are a lot of things going on and a lot of split decisions being made and trying to keep a team of 35 to 40 (people) busy," said Maj. Ron Guerts, 240th CEF senior technical lead engineer.

St. Michaels Association for Special Education faces many challenges. Dilapidated structures such as classrooms, housing and therapy rooms were built without proper planning and will need to be repaired. The region's soil is full of clay and silt, which makes drainage difficult. Rivers of rain water flood the land making deep grooves in the roads, and access to and from the school very difficult for staff and students.

"It's been exciting. We (NGB) are pumping well over a million dollars into the local environment through construction materials and labor," said Guerts. "The community is aware of what is going on out here at St. Michaels' slowly evolving campus, and now with this insurgence of energy and military personnel coming out, we are getting a lot of attention. People are coming out to see the progress that we are making on the campus. The 240th CEF will benefit from the training out here."

Working with the 240th CEF is the 203rd Red Horse Squadron, a Virginia ANG unit that will start the second phase of the project with demolition of the old dining hall, re-shingling of the maintenance building, construction of a new nursing station and renovating facilities.