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Air Force Engineers Help Army Build Up Field Bases

By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 19, 2004 – From their desks miles away from the forward operating bases, Combined Task Force Coyote engineers are improving the lives of deployed soldiers and Marines.

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Master Sgt. Korey Golcynski, Combined Task Force Coyote engineer, shows off his newly acquired wartime service patch. Army leaders award the shoulder-sleeve insignia to soldiers and to troops assigned to Army units serving in combat zones. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF

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During their five-month deployment here, the 11-airman team deployed from the Missouri Air National Guard works alongside Army engineers designing airfields, water-delivery and wastewater disposal systems, and buildings.

"When I see soldiers and Marines returning from the field, it feels good to know they're going to enjoy a hot shower, flushing toilets and have a comfortable bed to sleep in because of the work we do," said engineer Lt. Col. Paul Blanzy.

For their service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson, Combined Joint Task Force 76 commander, awarded Coyote soldiers, airmen and coalition troops the wartime service patch in a ceremony Nov. 11. Australian, Korean, Polish, and Slovakian military engineers also augment the unit.

The Air Force engineers wear the "combat patch" throughout their deployment. Soldiers awarded the patch have the option to continue wearing the shoulder- sleeve insignia throughout their Army careers. Regulations permitting the wear of the patch when the airmen return to their duty station are under review.

With or without the patch, improving the quality of life for deployed troops and Afghans is what keeps these engineers drawing up designs well into the end of the shift some nights, Blanzy said.

"These guys have never shirked from any job they've been given, because they know we're all working for a greater purpose," he said. "It's tough at times they have careers at home that are on hold and family they miss being away from, but they continue giving 100 percent."

Some Air National Guard engineers, such as Maj. Scott Nall and Capt. Fabian Grabski, will continue designing airfields and water and sanitary systems after shedding their desert-camouflage uniforms for civilian attire at their tour's end in late January. Others, such as Master Sgt. Korey Goldcynski and Maj. Darren Guttmann, will trade their eight-point hats for a police officer's cap and a book on environmental regulations.

However, no matter how much the men look forward to sharing time with their families, taking a leisurely Sunday drive, and visiting the toilet without having to walk a city block, the guardsmen said it's an honor to contribute to making the world a safer place.

"Taking care of business overseas, rather than on American soil" is what inspires engineering assistant Drake and his co-workers to create plans not only for today's soldiers, but also for a better tomorrow.

"Look in every direction around you. Task Force Coyote is turning Bagram into what it is today -- a power-projection platform from which all that is being done for the people of this country couldn't have been done without you," Olsen said to the troops after handing each of the 100-plus members in formation his and her combat patch. "Building up the infrastructure and transportation routes, Task Force Coyote is paving the way to a better future in Afghanistan."

It's that sense of accomplishment that sustains the Air Force engineers to continue designing with quality-of-life improvements foremost in mind.

"What we're doing here in support of the global war on terrorism is important," said engineer Maj. William Morales. "Later in life, we'll tell our grandchildren stories about our service here with pride."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey is assigned to455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMaj. William Morales, Combined Task Force Coyote engineer, center, honors the national anthem while standing in formation during a wartime service patch ceremony at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Nov. 11. The officer is one of 11 Missouri Air National Guard engineers deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. The airmen sew on the Army "combat patch" for their five-month assignment with the sister service. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCapt. Fabian Grabski reviews sewage system plans as Maj. Darren Guttmann draws up water distribution designs on his laptop computer Nov. 11. The Missouri Air National Guard engineers are among 11 guardsmen deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to receive the wartime service patch for their service with the Combined Task Force Coyote engineer unit. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF  
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