Camp Paumalu, Hawaii --
Many Airmen join the Air National Guard as a way to give back to local communities within the United States. The Innovative Readiness Training program has been providing a way for service members to do just that for the last 26 years.
More than 40 members of the 138th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 138th Force Support Squadron participated in an IRT project in the summer of 2019 when they traveled to Oahu, HI., to support construction at Girl Scout Camp Paumalu. The IRT program allows units to get valuable hands-on training that promotes mission readiness while strengthening and building community partnerships by providing key services for American communities.
“IRT’s provide a great training environment that allows you the opportunity to learn skills that might not necessarily be within AFSC,” said Master Sgt. Jimmy Charles, 138th CES structures technician. “The mission behind the training makes it even better. The people we get to work with and the work we get to do for these communities is just fantastic.”
The IRT was focused on building a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math center at Camp Paumalu for the Girl Scouts of HI. The center will allow girls to explore STEM careers by conducting on-site experiments and learning how their skills can make the world a better place.
“Its the ultimate trade-off,” Tech. Sgt. Justin Kanipe, 138th CES heavy equipment technician, explained. “The training we get during these projects is something we don’t get anywhere else, and we are providing things to the community they might not otherwise get.”
During their two week rotation, members of the 138th CES totaled more than 5,000 training hours, working on several projects that included framing, clearing land, pouring concrete and installing underground water distribution lines. The members of the 138th FSS services team supported the mission by cooking and serving three meals a day at the work-site.
Charles explained that one of the benefits to this TDY was the leadership experience younger Airmen received.
“IRT’s help make young Airmen into leaders,” Charles said. “Many of them were tasked with things they don’t usually do, and they were put in charge of more things than they were used to back home. It ultimately builds their skill-sets and their self confidence.”
In addition to the Airmen who took on leadership roles for the first time, 1st Lt. Emelia Brooks, 138th CES engineering officer, was selected as the officer in charge of the entirety of the Camp Paumalu IRT project. Brooks’ position as the OIC was her first opportunity to take ownership of something of this size and magnitude, overseeing the training of more than 500 service members.
Over the course of 10 months, more than 15 units worked together to finish the project. Once complete, Camp Paumalu will have a 11,000 square foot STEM Center and more than seven acres of cleared land for functional use.
“This provided us with an opportunity to see firsthand our investment back into the community,” Kanipe said. “IRTs are something you can look back on and be proud of. You don’t ever have to second guess what you’re a part of.”