Faces From the Front for September 21, 2009 - Master Sgt. Albert Ouellette
Master Sgt. Albert Ouellette
Current Unit: 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command
Current Position: Construction Operations Noncommissioned Officer
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: Auburn, Maine
Years of Service: 23.5
With more than 23 years of service in the Army, Master Sgt. Albert Ouellette knows well what it takes to be a Soldier. In fact, as the chief instructor for his Army Reserve unit in Auburn, Maine, Ouellette develops blocks on instruction for training those in his unit. But his deployment to Afghanistan as the Construction Operations Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) supporting the Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan (JSC-A), has challenged Ouellette to use both his civilian and military skills to meet the many operational needs of his unit.
With demands for a variety of support skills increasing in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number of reservists skilled in key areas such as engineering and construction are deploying to fill needs that civilian experts would normally meet. In Afghanistan, Ouellette works as part of a two-man section responsible for construction operations supporting JSC-A. Using the basic tools and equipment available, Ouellette builds office space, equipment and furniture as well as fixes electrical and generator problems, all in order to keep JSC-A running. His work enables the command to fulfill its mission of supplying troops in Afghanistan with necessary equipment and supplies.
“I feel as a chief instructor, it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure our Soldiers, officers and future officers get the proper training to keep them alive on a battlefield,” said Ouellette. “As the Construction Ops NCO, I have had an important role in trying to get work areas for our unit, and keeping power operational.”
The work has challenged Ouellette to use ingenuity and innovation to overcome resource issues. Working as part of a two-man team, Ouellette has access to a very basic selection of tools and limited assistance from others. Despite these challenges, Ouellette and his supervisor have built office spaces, workstations, tent floors and doors, a podium, and chairs. Ouellette has also had to complete much electrical and generator work, not only to keep the command running, but at times in order to complete his own projects.
"Many times we have not had the supplies necessary and have had to make do with what we have available," said Ouellette. "Some of the challenges we have faced are generators going down, temperatures reaching up to 140 degrees, tight places, lack of supplies due to the demands here in theater, and also natural elements like rain and sand storms."
Despite the challenges, the deployment has given Ouellette the experience of working in what can be a severe tactical environment, and many lessons to take back to his work as a chief instructor.
"I always wondered what it was like for those who have come before me, and how they worked in this hot, dry, and dusty environment," said Ouellette. "I have also been surprised by how we as different nations all come together and just get the missions done. I figured that each nation or branch would have their own base, but we are all together on one base and working together as necessary."
Ouellette will return home in January to his wife and three children. His son is currently completing basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. Ouellette says his home unit, family and friends, and church have done a great job supporting his wife and children.