DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The 7th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES), commanded by Lt. Col. Rick Vermillion, is responsible for Dyess Air Force Base’s real property infrastructure to include utilities and land. His squadron has an end strength of 327 personnel, to include 244 active duty military, 75 civilians, and 8 contractors. If any unit on Dyess Air Force Base exemplifies people, mission, and base, it is the 7th CES.
They do everything from maintaining the parking aprons where lifters and strikers await their orders, offices where missions are planned and budgets forecasted, hangars where aircraft are maintained, and the myriad of administrative buildings where Airmen reside and support the mission to responding to fires, medical and in-flight emergencies, unexploded ordnance, and hazardous materials. The 7th CES is truly ubiquitous.
The squadron is responsible for 1,291 facilities and non-domicile buildings and 1,076 housing units on and off base across 6,972 acres. Though the housing units have been privatized, the 7th CES is responsible for inspecting pre-repair work, post-repair work, and maintaining all water, electric, and sewer lines up to those buildings.
The 7th CES is comprised of six flights: Readiness and Emergency Management, Operations, Installation Management, Engineering, Fire and Emergency Services, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
The Readiness and Emergency Management flight is led by 1st Lt. John Loss and his Superintendent Master Sgt. Jessica Clayton. In peacetime, the flight’s role is to respond, plan and train. The flight’s mission is to respond to all incidents or accidents involving hazardous material spills or leaks and any chemical, biological, or radiological/nuclear incidents. “We aren’t needed until we are needed, therefore we feel underappreciated when we aren’t needed, but that’s a good thing,” Clayton said.
The Operations flight is led by Maj. Zachary Stanton, his deputy, Mr. Roger Harris, and his Superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Brandon Coffman. The flight is responsible for the maintenance and repair of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, buried gas and water lines, electrical lines, paved and unpaved roadways and sidewalks, vertical infrastructure, pest management, and overseeing service contracts to include, but not limited to grounds maintenance, trash removal, and custodial. This flight has a daily battle with an aging infrastructure that keeps them busy day in and day out.
The Installation Management flight is led by Mr. James Robertson who has worked for the Air Force at Dyess Air Force Base for 34 years. His flight is responsible for maintaining real property records, environmental safeguards, maintaining the squadron’s IT capabilities, and overseeing privatized housing and the dormitories. His flight and its predecessor flight configurations have been sustaining the infrastructure since 1958. The flight also manages the resources and budgeting for current and future projects. Robertson’s flight recently spent six weeks inventorying every facility listed on the real property records which included putting eyes on 1,187 structures on base and a few locations off base.
“The total value of our real property is about $3.1 billion,” Mr. Robertson said. “We receive two percent of that amount, or about $60 million in funding, for maintenance of the existing infrastructure regardless of whether costs escalate year over year.”
Mr. Conda Richards leads the Engineering Flight which is responsible for repairing and renovating the installation’s infrastructure and overseeing any new construction that takes place. Among the current 40 ongoing projects are facilities, parking aprons, fire suppression systems, and fuel tanks to name a few. These projects comprise 85 percent of the flight’s construction work, with another 15 percent underway to support the B-21 bed down. Over the next several years the 15 percent will grow and overtake the flight’s workload.
Not all of the projects are under the control of the 7th CES. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for certain projects by law. The Air Force Civil Engineering Center is another organization that manages certain projects. This does take the 7th CES a step away from having direct oversight of the projects, but provides additional resources as needed and the 7th CES works with each organization by providing feedback on issues such as poor quality of work, etc. When asked about his diversity of projects, Mr. Richards said “It is never boring.”
The last two flights, Fire and Emergency Services and Explosive Ordnance Disposal, led by Chief Master Sgt. Charles Clawson and Capt. Brennan Bosworth respectively, are in the business of protecting and preventing the destruction of real property and injury to Airmen and their families who work and reside on Dyess. Both flights also respond with and support first responders in the Abilene and surrounding communities that may need their specialized capabilities.
Besides providing a comfortable home for the B-1B Lancer and C-130J Super Hercules, the 7th CES will soon build a new home for the B-21 Raider. In fact, the squadron will be at the tip of the spear providing the facilities and infrastructure to support the B-21 by the time it touches down on the Dyess runway later in this decade.
In the meantime, Lt. Col. Vermillion’s squadron will continue to touch just about every function on the installation in support of the B-1B and the C-130J. The nation’s adversaries are formidable and are an increasing threat. Therefore, the Dyess Airmen must be ready to sustain the fight, whether that is on station or deployed down range.
Modernization, innovation, understanding the threat, and maintaining a competitive operations tempo are required to meet this global challenge and the 7th CES is in the fight to sustain people, mission and the base.