Engineers train at 4 Wing

Ex Northern Flag
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces pour concrete to fix road during exercise Northern Flag at the 4 Wing Construction Engineer Squadron (4 CES) Compound on September 27. Photo: Avr Brock Curtis, 4 Wing Imaging
Ex Northern Flag
Private Evan Beam, pulls out electrical cable in preparation to provide power to the electrical units at base camp during Exercise Northern Flag at 4 CES compound on September 26. Photo: Avr Kastleen Strome, 4 Wing Imaging

Cliff Kenyon

It’s said that if you build it, they will come.

In the case of Construction Engineers at 4 Wing Cold Lake and other Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) bases, chances are they may have built it or put it right and that’s why you can be there. That’s what the job entails. Building it or fixing it. Add to that, you may need to do it in the Arctic or in a desert.

Construction Engineers from across Canada were recently at 4 Wing Cold Lake for 10 days of training in their particular trades and learning other skills as well as gaining experience working as a team. Construction Engineers can include such tradespeople as plumbers, electricians, heating and refrigeration technicians, fire fighters and water treatment technicians.

While in Cold Lake, they didn’t stay in local hotels or barracks. Instead, to practice their skills and become more familiar with the equipment, the group set up a 50-person camp at the west side of 4 Wing. During their stay they also attended instructional courses and tackled projects to practice what they know and learn from each other.

Setting up such a camp is not an easy matter. It includes setting up tents for sleeping, showering, dining, cooking and office accommodation. And all of it requires the use of electrical generators and equipment to purify water.

“The camp is self contained and can be set up anywhere in the world,”
“We want to make sure our people can live and work in an expeditionary setting,” said Major Jason Hartwig, Commanding Officer of 4 Construction Engineering Squadron.

Just like other support groups on an air base, Construction Engineers must be ready to be sent where ever and when ever they may be needed.

“And the experience here helps them become qualified in their respective trades,” said Hartwig. “We practice on the equipment they would see on a deployment.”

“These aren’t make-work projects. They are meant to be projects they can learn from.”

Construction Engineers can have a wide variety of tasks and they are expected to do them all well from pouring and finishing concrete to operating high-pressure aircraft refueling systems or repairing heating and air conditioning systems.

Another task Construction Engineers have taken on is inspecting runways and training inspectors.

“We aren’t going to have jets land on a runway unless we know it’s safe to do so.”

It’s an important role that has been revealed after natural disasters such as flood and hurricanes. Natural disasters often require air support, but aircraft can’t land if a runway has been damaged and such damage sometimes is only revealed during an inspection.

“The benefit of these courses is they get to work together as a team with different trades.”

Although based in Cold Lake, 4 Construction Engineers Squadron is actually part of 2 Wing at CFB Bagotville.