Roads and Grounds crew battles back against snowstorm
February 26, 2010
By Paul Bello
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- This season's heavy snowfall set records and wreaked havoc for motorists across the region. However, it didn't stop a certain group of workers from Fort Belvoir.
Members of the Installation Support Services Roads and Grounds department braved Mother Nature's fury to be on post and ready for their respective 12-hour shifts. According to their manager Terri Gulan, who slept inside her own truck for three days, workers came from as far as Maryland, while others drove in from places like Stafford and other parts of Prince William County.
"All 32 employees made it into work that weekend to make sure Belvoir looked good. It was a real test of faith," Gulan said. "There was no complaining or anything. They just did it. I'm so proud to be working with all of them."
Gulan said some workers took their dedication even further by staying overnight and, in some cases, walking to work. Austin Bolling, who lives at a nearby apartment complex, couldn't get his car out and decided to trek the three miles by foot to get to Belvoir.
"Austin is a very conscientious worker who goes above and beyond his work. He doesn't leave until the job is finished," Gulan said. "When the guys started showing up one by one, I couldn't help but give each one a big hug. They knew it was going to be rough. At the same time, they were here and ready to go."
Considering what they endured, Gulan jokes that might be an understatement. The group lost power in it's building and wasn't able to refuel their trucks on post. Without anything hot to eat or drink, things got even tougher.
"It wasn't easy, but we persevered and got through it together. I live in Dale City and wound up staying here one night because the roads off post were so bad," said Lou Fields, a member of the department for the last 12 years. "We weren't too comfortable, but you do what you have to do.
"The job is physically and mentally demanding. It can be dangerous and we get tired and fatigued, but it's all worthwhile in the end," Fields said. "Knowing that we're helping the rest of the community is our biggest reward."
Robert Purdy, who has worked at Belvoir since 2001, was one of many on the day shift the weekend of the big storm. While removing snow at McRee Barracks, Purdy estimated a snowfall of roughly 40 inches.
"Having lived in New York for a long time, I'm used to weather like this. Though, for this area, it doesn't happen very often," Purdy said.
"Because the storm came so fast, we couldn't salt or sand the roads. We just plowed and did the best we could."
Miguel Jimenez, Deltrudec Aguilar and William Martinez agree this was the biggest storm they've seen since moving to Virginia. So does Jose Cruz, who has been a member of the department for a decade. Like Fields and a few others, Cruz slept inside their building once his nightshift ended.
"Without electricity, it was pretty cold in here. Not much else you could do," he said. "I've experienced weather like this before, but it doesn't always happen in this area. It definitely makes things challenging."
Ron Bernhard has been a member of the department for 17 years and has gotten to know Belvoir pretty well. In his experience, he said this was the worst storm ever for northern Virginia.
"I usually take the bus into work, but there wasn't any service. So, I had a friend drop me off at Pence Gate and I walked over to our building from there," Bernhard said. "I spent two nights here because it was so bad. It wasn't the best working conditions, but I think we all did a pretty good job."