Dirty Jobs: From the ground up with Structures
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of South Korea -- This is the third article in a series focusing on and recognizing the 'Dirty Jobs' done by Airmen of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron.
Grime and dirt coats the skin, safety glasses fog over from the heat of a welding torch as sweat soaks through shirts and they continue to work, cutting, painting, welding or building, no job is too big or too small for the Airman of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop.
Functional artisans that can create with a plethora of materials ranging from concrete and carpentry to metal work, a structures troop can construct a house, an office building, and an aircraft hangar from the ground up or renovate and repair existing ones.
"Everyone has something to do; you trust them to know what needs to be done to work together and to get the job finished quickly and correctly," said Staff Sgt. Bethanie Jeremenko, a 51st CES structural craftsman. "You have to learn to work together, you have to be flexible with everyone's capabilities, and I love it."
Known as the catch-all career field, structures Airmen have a job that can vary from the indoors to the outdoors, from the roof to the basement and everywhere in between. But whether they're doing a door repair, installing insulation in 125 degree weather or out on the flightline teamed up with other shops from CE working on airfield damage repair, they are getting dirty and working hard.
"We get really dirty," said Jeremenko. "Working outside all day when it's hot and you're sweating out gallons, covered in dirt, grease, paint and dry wall mud or in the metal shop, coming out with your face blackened, you're just dirty all the time."
Getting their hands and face dirty is just part of what most structures Airmen say they love about the job they do. Jeremenko spoke of using both the mind and body to complete a task, of how working hard with her fellow Airmen and seeing it pay off when a building rose from nothing filled each of them with a sense of accomplishment.
"I immensely enjoy what I do as a structures troop," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Beck, a 51st CES structural craftsman. "I can proudly say that I've had a hand in building aircraft hangars, large maintenance structures and completing large renovations."
The largest part of what the shop accomplishes from day to day are the repair and remodel work on pre-existing buildings. A structures troop is available 24/7 to deal with emergency calls. The shop has completed over 40 emergency jobs, putting in approximately 325 man hours in the last few months.
An additional 700 plus hours were spent on dorm maintenance alone in that same time, and while some might find constant minute repairs tedious Beck refers to them as just a routine part of an overall job that he enjoys.
"I love everything about this job," said Jeremenko. "I don't do the same thing two days in a row, it's always changing. You have to use your mind to complete intricate parts of the job, like locksmithing. It also gets pretty physical when you're out on a job site carrying around two-by-fours, sheets of plywood and four-by-fours all day. You have to be strong to be in structures."
Strength, skill and teamwork are what gets the job done every time. When there is a time element, such as working with rapidly drying concrete, Jeremenko explained that this is when the team pulls together. "What this job comes down to are the people you work with."
Dirty job sites and long hours might make up the day but to see something broken repaired or something new rise where nothing was before are what make it all worth it for the hard working Airmen of structures.