AFSC Spotlight: Engineer par-excellence

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Academy's Field Engineering and Readiness Laboratory maintains activities throughout the year. 

It's where you'll find the FERL superintendent and facility manager bridging the gap between theory and practice for cadets. It's a build first, design later, hands-on environment. 

The Civil Engineering 351 "FERL" program is for cadets majoring in civil and environmental engineering. It provides facilities ranging from classrooms with Internet access, kitchen, warehouses, and 27 pieces of construction equipment used in all branches of the military for contingency training throughout the year, said Master Sgt. Dennis Scott. 

"Later, when cadets start their engineering core classes, this training enlightens them on the basic engineering concepts," said the 22-year Air Force veteran from Hermon, N.Y. "It exposes cadets and other students to realistic life experiences of the CE operation and the chance to work equally with active-duty members, Reserve, Guard, defense civilians and contractors. This training provides the hands-on connection with the entire military force." 

The five-week summer program is composed of a two-week Operation Civil Engineering/Operation Air Force program, which began May 17, and three weeks of civil engineering practices at FERL from May 31 to June 19. 

This year during OPSCEAF, cadets were stationed at a base either in Guam, Florida, Japan, Nevada, or Germany. 

"For the first phase, I am working with prior cadets 'logies' that have taken FERL last year preparing the site for the arrival of the cadets," said the senior NCO. 

For the second phase, as site superintendent and facility manager, he is responsible for the welfare of everyone on site 24/7 while the cadets live on the site. He interacts with the cadets during all phases of FERL to ensure their safety and needs. 

The 50-acre FERL site is located in Jacks Valley, east of CATM. It recently supported Fort Carson special forces training prior to their deployment and an Air National Guard Unit from Denver's Buckley Air Force Base as they maintained their annual training. 

"I am responsible for 27 pieces of heavy equipment such as a backhoe, bobcat, graders, dozer, forklifts, loaders, scraper, dump trucks, farm tractor, rollers, paver, excavator, sweeper, water trucks, and a crane," the sergeant said. "FERL hours range average 10-plus hours each day. I'm responsible for recruiting about 50 mentors, to include their funding, lodging, transportation, and to be available for them if needed throughout their tour here." 

FERL work is useful. Since 1998, the wood frame activity, for example, has constructed 23 modular homes for the Navajo Nation in Gallup N.M. This year, cadets built two modular homes with assistance of the mentors that were selected. 

The cadets placed four concrete pads for hardbacks at the basic cadet training area on a self help project, and laid 200 tons of asphalt for supporting the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron for an overlay to the Aardvark auxiliary runway. 

Cadets accomplished a self-help project at the base lodging laundry room, removing a wall and refinishing the area which enabled a $40,000 per year cost savings for their unit. 

FERL is based on a contingency environment. There is no need to create any additional hardships for the students. For example, the 2009 FERL class lived in hardback tents for their three-week stay. However, they were allowed to leave the site during the evenings and weekends. The Class of 2010 will enjoy the newly constructed wood framed billets as well as a new shower and shave latrine. 

"Currently I have two mentors from an Air National Guard Unit and enormous support from the Seabee Unit out of Fort Carson who constructed 16 enclosed buildings, which replaced the hardbacks with tents," he said. "The FERL vision is to provide cadet training, manage a site for the entire military force to train, and promote civil engineers throughout the civilian sector." 

The NCO, focused on the discipline of time management, finds time for other things as well. He is an active member of the Air Force Sergeants Association as service chair. He visits nursing homes throughout Colorado and every month conducts a recreational game at Denver Veterans Administration nursing home. Sergeant Scott is an active member of the Pikes Peak Society of American Military Engineers as the NCO Liaison
promoting civil engineers to children at schools and throughout the community. 

Then there's his Archery Club membership. Each year he assists the Colorado of Wildlife as a hunting guide on base for their annual deer hunts. 

Not surprisingly, he is on-call as crane support for the Crash Recovery Team. 

"I draw great personal satisfaction from working with FERL," said the engineer par-excellence. "It comes from taking care of people and knowing that you have a large part in its success and recovery from crisis when they occur."