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Air Force civil engineers build all-new camp for Airmen in Haiti

Senior Airman Kristopher P. Stewart (right) rolls measuring tape while surveying a living area for military relief workers, Feb. 2, 2010, at Port-au-Prince airport. Airman Stewart is an engineering assitant with the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Civil Engineering Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Emily Alley)

Senior Airman Kristopher P. Stewart (right) rolls measuring tape while surveying a living area for military relief workers, Feb. 2, 2010, at Port-au-Prince airport. Airman Stewart is an engineering assitant with the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Civil Engineering Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Emily Alley)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The perfect rows of a tent city are no accident. Ideally, before a single stake is driven into the ground, civil engineers have meticulously determined the placement of each building.

In Port-au-Prince, however, the Kansas Air National Guard civil engineers had almost no notice before they were tasked to lay out a 1,500-person beddown and design for a base camp master plan. They are working to convert Port-au-Prince airport to a living area for relief workers.

"This is planning on the fly," said Captain Donald Harper from the 190th Air Refueling Wing civil engineers, who is supervising the site master plan. "We are planning while tents are going up."

It was a surprise for the civil engineers when they found out they were the lead unit. Engineering assistants, EAs, generally have two weeks to a month to prepare for a bare-base beddown. An additional complication, said Captain Harper, is that they were speculating which structures to include in their master plan, since most had not arrived when planning began.

Captain Harper expressed his enthusiasm for the mission. "Building a bare base from the ground up is a once in a career opportunity."

Senior Airman Kristopher P. Stewart, an engineering assistant with the 190th ARW, agreed.

"This never happens to an EA. Especially as a young airman, this is a great experience. On day one we were sleeping on the ground, which was motivation to build."

Airman Stewart helps to create the master plan through measurements and calculations- trigonometry is a required competency for EAs before they even attend tech school. Luckily, he's also an engineering student at Wichita State University and is comfortable with math.

"Sixty percent of the time, I'm right every time!" he jokes.

Despite the chaos of a demanding master plan, Airman Stewart is confident that he made the right choice to sacrifice a spring semester of school to serve in Haiti.

"I can say I've done humanitarian work -- housing 1,500 people and building a temporary hospital," he said. "We're crucial."

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