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Airmen build legal complex at Camp Justice

by Army Spc. Shanita Simmons
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs

3/19/2008 - GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (AFPN) -- Approximately 50 Airmen deployed to support Joint Task Force Guantanamo in February to put the finishing touches on the Expeditionary Legal Complex construction projects at Camp Justice here.

With a group of civil engineers including plumbers, carpenters, electricians, heavy equipment operators and air conditioning and heating specialists on hand, the new members of the 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron will finish the projects initiated by their unit predecessors.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo personnel conduct safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants. The 474th ECES Airmen will support base members while completing projects that will be vital to the disposition of detainees.

"We are currently trying to finish the construction phase of the Expeditionary Legal Complex and to maintain the areas completed by the proceeding units, said Master Sgt. Scott Clarkson, the 474th ECES first sergeant. "However, our main mission is sustainment. We are charged with making sure the entire ELC -- Camp Justice and all the surrounding buildings -- run smoothly. We may be tasked with doing anything from performing minor work orders to major repairs."

When the reserve forces previously attached to the 474th ECES departed in February, they were replaced by approximately 50 Guard Airmen attached to civil engineer squadrons out of Texas and Mississippi. Although the majority of the new Airmen came from the 136th Civil Engineer Squadron from San Antonio, Sergeant Clarkson said his group also includes Airmen from the 172nd Civil Engineer Squadron out of Jackson, Miss., and the 149th Civil Engineer Squadron of San Antonio.

Airmen of the 474th ECES will focus on preventive maintenance to ensure facilities such as showers and latrines are in working order, Sergeant Clarkson said. Camp Justice has its own power supply and water treatment plant, so the Expeditionary Legal Complex will resemble a city within a city, and members of the 474th ECES are essentially the public works department.

The greatest challenge here is not the mission itself, but performing it within a joint environment, Sergeant Clarkson said. Typically, Prime BEEF units consist of civil engineers tasked with designing, building, maintaining and tearing down buildings and airfields according to established Air Force standard operating procedures. However, the joint environment here has challenged the 474th ECES Airmen to learn to integrate their normal operations with the larger joint task force structure.

"When commissions begin to take place within the ELC, it will be our responsibility to make sure that everything in the main courtroom building and tent city is in good working order," Sergeant Clarkson said. "When things break down, we will fix it. We are ready for whatever happens."

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