ARROYO CANO, Dominican Republic --
One month in and New Horizons 2017 continues strong thanks to non-typical support from Airmen out of the 635th Materiel Maintenance Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
Twelve Airmen from the 635th MMS’s Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources unit work diligently to keep the barracks operational and improve service member’s wellbeing in support of NH17, Dominican Republic.
The 12 Airmen are part of the Air Force's only BEAR unit, which is responsible for providing flexible and responsive resources and expertise to support the nation’s priorities. The group responds worldwide for the deployment, sustainment, setup, operation, maintenance, teardown and reconstitution of equipment in support of contingencies, natural disaster response, humanitarian support, exercises, counterdrug operations, other higher headquarters, and presidential-directed requirements.
Teams normally deploy out with their own equipment and help the receiving unit set the gear up in a timely manner. After setup, the team typically leaves and turns over maintenance to a civil engineer team.
“Usually we only go out for two to three weeks at a time," said Senior Master Sgt. Craig Hunter, the 635th MMS BEAR team chief. "In this case, we went to a sustainment operation, which is not typical to a BEAR base but it suits what we were doing. There isn’t a civil engineer team here on the ground to hand off maintenance to, so we offered our services to maintain the equipment that we know and maintain the base camp so ‘RED HORSE’ can focus on the vocational school and medical clinic construction projects.”
From day one the team has worked to provide NH17 service members with basic necessities and comforts that wouldn’t be provided otherwise.
“We set up a laundry tent consisting of a small shelter system, 10 washers, 20 dryers, two water heaters as well as all the tanks water pumps and bladders associated with it,” explained Hunter. “We also set up the Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen, which comes with a medium shelter so we have plenty of dining area and food cooking operations for the 200 to 250 personnel we were expecting on the ground.”
The BEAR team also set up a gym, brought in all the emergency backup lighting and strategically placed all the backup generators.
Although the team consists of members with differing specialties, its Airmen use opportunities such as this to share knowledge amongst the team.
“When we deploy out as a team one of our goals is to make sure that we are subject matter experts on our own equipment, but also we know a little bit about everyone else’s equipment,” said Hunter. “Since we are such a small team we depend on each other for that labor assist and that support. They are a tight knit team and want to help each other out wherever they can.
“If we have a power outage, we ‘don’t only need’ our power pro guys, but anyone else who is available from our team to be able to start up generators, light carts and switch over that power, because those power pro guys can’t be tasked to do all that at once.”
Along with hard work and continually growing knowledge also comes a sense of pride for the team.
"Everyday I’m learning, with the weather and equipment - we teach each other,” said Staff Sgt. John Hernandez, a 635th MMS power production craftsman. “The people here know who the BEAR team is. It feels pretty good. When they walk down our hallway they see the pride we take.”
A lot of that pride comes from working in a location that sometimes makes it difficult to get the job done.
According to Hunter, since the team hit the ground everyone has worked together. The Airmen encountered challenges in the beginning, but it was out of the team's control with commercial power going down and supplies not coming in, but no matter what it was the guys figured out a way to make it work.
"We have been working with what little we have to make the mission continue," said Hernandez. "You just have to make things work."
“There hasn’t been any time we said we can’t do it or it can’t be done, said Hunter. “Even through all the challenges and working some really late nights sometimes, the guys are still smiling and happy. Morale is high because they love what they are doing.”