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Reservists practice innovative readiness training

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- 2005 was a banner year for Air Force Reserve Command’s Innovative Readiness Training program — a civil-military partnership through which Reservists, primarily civil engineers, medical specialists, logisticians and supply technicians, receive valuable training while leaving something of value behind for communities throughout the United States.

One Innovative Readiness Training project in 2005 had Reservists constructing a road through the Bear Paw Mountains on the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation outside Havre, Mont. The reservation is getting an important road while Reservists are getting valuable training on heavy equipment.
“IRT continues to be a great way for Reservists to practice their skills while helping out needy communities across the country,” said Maj. Chuck Carty, IRT program manager.

In all, more than 400 Reservists participated in IRT projects in 2005, racking up more than 60,000 training hours. At the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation outside of Havre, Mont., for example, seven Reservists spent part of their summer cutting a major road through the Bear Paw Mountains that will greatly facilitate transportation on the reservation.

“That was the best heavy equipment training these Reservists will ever get,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gil Taylor, IRT superintendent. “That project will continue in ‘06, and when it’s completed, we will have constructed nearly 5,000 feet of new road and excavated and moved nearly 50,000 cubic yards of material.”

“These equipment operators are getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get valuable stick time on bulldozers, excavators, rollers, front-end loaders and dump trucks,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rick Riel, an individual mobilization augmentee assigned to the 796th Civil Engineer Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and project manager at the Rocky Boys site. “The reservation is getting an important road project built, and the Reservists are getting great training in the process. That’s what IRT is all about.”

IRT is also about building relationships with people in the communities where the Reservists are serving. At the Rocky Boys annual pow-wow, tribal leaders asked the Reservists to participate in the opening ceremony. They, along with representatives from other branches of service, carried in the colors.

“That was a great honor for our Reservists and is something they will never forget,” Sergeant Riel said.

In Bayfield, Wis., more than 80 Reservists worked on a variety of projects for the Red Cliff band of the Lake Superior Chippewas. They constructed roads; built a baseball field, dugout and concession stand; renovated a youth center; constructed a wheelchair ramp and fixed a drainage problem at the child-care center; and designed and built a new cemetery.

“One of the great things about IRT is that it gives our Reservists a chance to work alongside people from the other services,” Chief Taylor said. “At Red Cliff, our Reservists worked hand-in-hand with reserve Soldiers and Sailors. It truly was a total-force effort.”

Since 1996, Air Force Reservists have been helping to build houses in Gallup, N.M., for needy members of the Navajo Nation under a project called Operation Footprint.

“Operation Footprint has always been a staple of IRT, and this past year was no different,” Chief Taylor said. “Building houses is a great way for our Reservists to expand their knowledge. They get to learn a little about all phases of basic construction.”

In Bryson City, N.C., 89 civil engineers spent a total of 16,000 training hours during the summer building Sabbath House, a lodge that is available for use by members of the clergy of all denominations.

“That was another excellent opportunity for our Reservists to train in all aspects of construction,” Major Carty said.

2005 was also a busy year for Reservists involved with Project Transam, the IRT program that transfers excess medical equipment and supplies from the Department of Defense to Indian Health Service health-care facilities.

“When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast, our Transam folks really stepped up to the plate and helped get critical supplies into the area,” Major Carty said.

In all, the program delivered more than 27 tons of equipment and supplies for hurricane relief efforts.

“Transam provides great training for our people working at our warehouse at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., and it also provides excellent training for the aircrews who fly the supplies throughout the United States,” the major said.

Excellent training was also the name of the game for the more than 100 medical specialists who took part in IRT projects in 2005. Working at Indian Health Service facilities in Spirit Lake, N.D., Billings, Mont., and Eagle Butte and Rosebud, S.D., Reservists had the opportunity to work at state-of-the-art treatment facilities and experience a culture and customs that most people never have the chance to see first-hand.

While they are justifiably proud of their 2005 accomplishments, Reserve IRT officials are gearing up for an equally busy 2006.

“Funding is becoming harder to come by due to the global war on terrorism, but we still have a full plate for ‘06, highlighted by our biggest civil engineer project to date at the Helemano Plantation in Hawaii,” Major Carty said.

At Helemano, Reservists will help build dormitories, a community center and a training center. The plantation provides a real-world work environment for the developmentally disabled.

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