140 CES builds more than buildings with Slovenia
By SrA Michelle Alvarez-Rea, 140th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 12, 2015
POCEK BASE, Slovenia -- After several weeks of intense labor, the ribbon cutting of the Bile Site at Pocek Base, near Postonja, Slovenia, was an occasion celebrated by many on July 30.
After working side by side for five weeks on the project, the Colorado Air National Guard civil engineer team and members of the Slovenian Armed Forces completed an overhaul of an historic barn into a new range operations building, which will be used by the Slovenian Armed Forces, the U.S. Air Force and other NATO countries for joint, multinational training and exercises.
Colorado and Slovenia have fostered a mutually beneficial relationship for the past 22 years as part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program, through which Colorado and Slovenia support one another's needs and improve the strategic objectives of both countries. Recently, the partnership has focused its efforts on upgrading the current Slovenian bombing and training range with more enhanced capabilities in order to be compliant with NATO standards. With the completion of the Bile Site, that vision is becoming a reality.
Before the restoration began, Slovenian Armed Forces members visited the 140th Wing's Airburst Range, Fort Carson, Colo. several times to learn about range construction and operations, and Colorado Guardsmen travelled to Pocek Base to evaluate the scope of the project and provide guidance on the way ahead.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Milliman, commander, 140th Civil Engineering Squadron, admitted this was a very aggressive project for his team to undertake. "A short window of working days and hot weather posed challenges but the American and Slovenian troops worked very hard together to make it all happen," he said.
The Colorado National Guard sent 48 Guardsmen from the 140th Civil Engineering Squadron with a variety of vocations to complete the barn restoration over a five week period. This not only helped augment the Slovenian Armed Forces construction effort, but also provided valuable training for the deployed members.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ellie Gustafson, structural journeyman, 140th Civil Engineering Squadron, recalled her experience as "amazing" and emphasized the value in being able to get real life experience while working with other trades. "Learning how to work with one another to build a usable facility rather than just building a wall and then having to take it down, was really rewarding," she said.
With limited manpower and only 25 working days, there was no time to be wasted. At about the halfway point, the teams rotated and a new group arrived. In order to ensure the ribbon cutting ceremony would not be delayed, the Guardsmen added one hour to their workday and an additional five hours of work to the weekend. The Colorado National Guard left no question that they were committed to the relationship with the Slovenian Armed Forces and their promise of a usable range center facility by the time they left.
The result of all the hard work, a beautifully crafted operations center, complete with a new HVAC system, drywall, electricity, plumbing, vinyl flooring, an office, a restroom, air conditioning and two working generators, that will be able to conduct combined ground training and air-to-ground tactics in the European theater.
Most importantly, the Colorado-Slovenia relationship continues to build and increase in effectiveness. The time spent developing and executing range improvements has created an additional layer of comradery and partnership that will continue to promote national security.