Self-help project yields big improvements for Det.11, causes big savings for Air Force

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- The bad news: Detachment 11 of the 372nd Training Squadron needed additional space to complete their maintenance training mission.

The good news: Building 2409, formerly the AAFES Home and Garden building, was available.

The really good news: Eleven months and 5,600 hours of self-help labor later, the detachment completely transformed the building into their new home - saving the Air Force approximately $80,000 on the project.

The detachment officially opened the building Oct. 6, showing off the fruits of their labor. "This is probably the best surprise that I've seen at Davis-Monthan," said 355th Wing Commander Col. Kent Laughbaum during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "What made it special to me was by your own labor, you took something that wasn't being used and made it something remarkable, not only for yourselves, but for generations to come."

The renovation entailed completely removing the floor coverings, wall paper and ceilings, as well as constructing three classrooms and a heritage room. Members of the detachment also laid 2,700 square feet of tile and 1,500 square feet of carpet, put in a new ceiling, completed drywall, texture and paint, and remodeled a bathroom.

"Very few people (in the detachment) had the expertise to complete this massive project," said Tech. Sgt. Richard McKee, one of the key players in the renovation. "We used each individual's small amount of experience to complete the entire project. We definitely drew upon everyone's unique talents and the advice from other outside agencies such as self-help and Civil Engineering."

Detachment Commander Capt. Rob Lewin said the project only cost $74,000 for supplies. The funding came from self-help money.

Self-help projects are a good way for units to make improvements to their facilities. The base self-help program provides the supplies; in return, the unit provides the labor. To get a self-help project approved, units first submit an Air Force Form 332 to the Civil Engineering Squadron. The squadron's self-help office then determines if the project is feasible and if funds are available to give the project the go ahead. The office also loans units tools and offers advice on projects.

In a time of budget crunches, self-help projects make renovations possible that otherwise might not have happened. "We are short on money in the Air Force, and you did something good for the Air Force and this base - not just your detachment," Colonel Laughbaum said.

Detachment 11 is responsible for providing initial skills and follow-on training for all D-M maintenance personnel. The instructors teach 69 Community College of the Air Force accredited courses in eight Air Force Specialty Codes.

On average, the detachment teaches more than 29,000 hours each year, graduating 1,200 students from Davis-Monthan and other bases worldwide.

The detachment is made up of 41 permanent party personnel assigned to Air Education and Training Command.