Carpentry shop helps service members help themselves

Story and Photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The self-help carpentry shop and Troops to Task program at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, not only help service members and local nationals build furniture out of wood, but also build skills and relationships through a joint partnership.

Service members interested in building new furniture for their living area or workplace may stop by the carpentry shop Tuesday through Thursday, take a brief safety course and receive a signature card that allows them to work in the shop, said Senior Airman Mark Hathaway, a carpenter at the self-help shop and a Bartlesville, Okla., native.

Hathaway said the signature card also allows Warfighters to check out tools to use at their unit.

Hathaway said roughly 20 service members per week use the facility to build shelves, desks, entertainment centers and even ping-pong tables.

Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) took advantage of the carpentry shop to create large wooden Christmas decorations for the front of their buildings, said Capt. Pilar Restrepo, the HHC commander and a Miami native.

"We have somebody with the ability and we're able to count on his skills to build them," said Restrepo. "It has been a great way to increase morale."

Hathaway said his shop can provide assistance and instruction to those who have less experience with woodworking.

"One of the biggest things is knowing your measurements," he said. "I love to help design and help Soldiers realize their ideas."

If service members do not have the ability or time to build the furniture they need, local nationals can build it for them, said Air Force Tech Sgt. Patrick Galla, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Troops to Task program and a Traverse City, Mich., native.

Galla said the program works with roughly 170 local nationals, providing both skilled and unskilled labor to JBB.

"They have very good craftsmanship," he said. "They have built everything from desks, to ramps for aircraft."

The local nationals work on base beautification projects in addition to providing construction labor for units, he said.

Galla said the program not only helps the locals build their carpentry skills, but helps them develop organizational and managerial skills as well.

"We're building good relationships here and providing skills for the local nationals after we leave," he said.


news photo
Air Force Staff Sgt. William Ferguson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the self-help carpentry shop at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and a Elmendorf Air Base, Alaska, native, gives a safety course to demonstrate proper use of shop equipment to service members interested in using the facility.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)