Civil engineers deploy to renovate Romanian medical clinic

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Framed by the backdrop of the Black Sea shoreline, Oregon Air National Guardsmen from the 142nd Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron traveled nearly halfway around the globe to renovate a medical facility here as part of the U.S. European Commands' Humanitarian Civic Assistance Program.

The restoration of Pavilion C at the Mangalia City Hospital is a Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) project funded by the United States European Command (EUCOM) with the participation of nearly 90 U.S. military Airmen from Alabama and Oregon Air National Guard units. The estimated total cost of this renovation is $60,000.

The Airmen addressed a rooftop terrace, treatment rooms, bathroom upgrades, as well as other building projects at the clinic. The project was started by the Alabama Air National Guard's 117th Air Refueling Wing, and then handed over to the Oregon citizen-Airmen to complete. Romania is a state partner with Alabama, under the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

"The project is the duration of two rotations," said Lt. Col. Jacob Skugrud, 142nd Fighter Wing Civil Engineer deputy commander and project officer. "Our sister unit in Alabama started the work and then the Portland team followed in their footsteps to complete the project."

While some of the civil engineers took on the water damage repairs, a significant aspect to the project was building a wheelchair ramp to the Pavilion C entry.

Dr. Liviu Mocanu, hospital director, said the wheelchair ramp was vital to the overall construction project.

"To have a current health license for the building the addition of the access ramp was necessary to serve those with disabilities," he said.

When the 142nd CES arrived, the basic concrete structure still had to be completed. Modifications to the handrails, additional concrete forms and a tile surface on the ramp took another eight days to complete.

"This hospital is special to this region of Romania, and it is a great honor to have been chosen for the assistance," Macanu said.

Pavilion C specializes in oncological medicine. The severity of the water damage forced several of the treatment rooms located on the third floor to be decommissioned, forcing the practitioners to work in other facilities in the area.

The damage to the treatment rooms transpired over time from the forth floor terrace, as water exploited weaknesses in the building's structure. The Alabama team pulled the damaged floor tile and installed a new sealing membrane to keep water out, prior to laying the new tile. With the roof project partially complete, the Oregon Airmen continued to install the remainder of the tile roof, spending a majority of time with detailing the final pieces and grouting until complete.

"The new membrane will keep water from seeping into the rooms and hallway renovated on this project," Skugrud said. "The team from Alabama had a bigger crew with about 50-plus members, so they were able to keep the project on pace and prep other areas for our team to finish."

After arriving almost two days late to the site in Romania due to airlift glitches, and with a smaller crew of 33 members, the 142nd Airmen had to quickly pick up the pace on the clinic renovations.

Not only had the water damage affected the treatment rooms inside the clinic but it also deteriorated the exterior stucco of the building, damaging electrical lighting and fixtures both inside and out.

"The folks from Alabama had done the major prep and demo to the exterior," said Capt. Lucas Smith, 142nd CES, who served as the project lead for the building exterior renovations. "We had to go from the bare concrete to primer and then to applying the stucco."

Applying stucco was a new experience for the Oregon Airmen, and allowed for most of the crew working with Smith a chance to cross-train and develop new skills.

"We've had an enthusiastic team during this process and I have no doubt our younger Airmen have learned a great deal more than just how to apply stucco," Smith said.

Deployments For Training (DFT) give Air National Guard units like the 142nd CES the opportunity to enhance existing skills while deploying outside the United States, at the same time developing a sense of responsibility in those host nations, Smith added.

"We preform DFT projects approximately once every three years, depending on real-world deployments and our annual training commitments," said 142nd Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Commander Lt. Col. Jason Lay.

According to Lay, a key decision on why this project was selected is the diversity of skill sets within one project. Once on site, he quickly put smaller teams together to tackle different areas of the building.

"There's a synergistic effect; people like working alongside each other, camaraderie and team building occur naturally while accomplish an objective together," Lay said.

"Out of the group here in Romania, about two-thirds of them are on their first DFT project."

One of the more experienced members of the Romanian deployment is Senior Airman Zachariah Lewis. As a civilian carpenter and contractor, he brought many of the skills necessary to finish renovating the treatment rooms.

Yet Lewis is also completing back-to-back international deployments, having just returned from Vietnam in a similar role with Oregon's State Partnership Program. Oregon also has Bangladesh as its state partner.

When Lay asked for volunteers to be project leads the first day on site, Lewis immediately stepped up.

"I was confident that I can bring my knowledge to the team, and teach them how to do the job," Lewis said.

He quickly put together a group of six to eight Airmen to finish paint scraping, plaster repair and eventually painting the water damaged treatment rooms and connecting main hallway.

"I work a lot with general contractors and typically know how the work flow goes, and have a sense for how the end results need to be," Lewis said.

Touring the project during the final week, Macanu was visibly happy when he inspected how the final part of the project was coming together.

"I wish that we could have our American friends come back and work on other projects in the future that need more work," he said.

During the two-weeks the 142nd CES spent repairing the clinic, citizens of Mangalia watched the work in passing with wonder and often smiles as the work progressed. A new and growing sense of camaraderie as well as a heightened willingness between the Air Guardsmen and citizens of Mangalia, Romania, began to develop in with the progress made on the medical clinic.

Since becoming a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member in 2004, Romania has continued to foster better affiliations with partner nations. As the project concluded, a formal ribbon cutting ceremony, on May 20, allowed U.S. and Romanian officials the opportunity to highlight this shared bond, as U.S. Charge d'Affairs ad interim Dean Thompson and the mayor of Mangalia, Romania, Radu Cristian, celebrated the renovation to Pavilion C.

"It is a gift from the American people to the citizens of Mangalia and the surrounding towns, villages and communities. Better healthcare leads to better outcomes and will help the future of the region to grow and prosper," said Thompson.

The deployments are an important aspect to sustain a positive U.S. military presence while preparing National Guardsmen to stay prepared to perform their mission; whether home or aboard.

"By building partnerships within these communities this has been a great training opportunity through the DFT program, while at the same time it has also been a chance to broaden our influence throughout Europe," said Patrick Considine, HCA program manager for EUCOM.

Meeting the 142nd CES Airmen on hand for the ceremony, Considine praised the knowledge, the skill and professionalism, which contributed to the success of this project.

"Hopefully we can replicate what you guys did here, going forward with the next 20 HCA projects slated for this season, it will be tough to match because your team really knocked it way out of the park," Considine said.