By Megan Locke Simpson Fort Campbell CourierOctober 23, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Noncommissioned officers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the Alfred V. Rascon School of Combat Medicine earned the top cash awards for each organization during the Directorate of Public Works' Facility Maintenance Incentive Program recognition ceremony, Oct. 16, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Decorian Owens, 3rd BCT, earned his unit $60,000 in the large unit category, and Sgt. Dustin Conley accepted a $30,000 check on behalf of the Rascon School of Combat Medicine, which competed in the small unit category. The Soldiers serve as Facility Maintenance Technicians. This additional duty serves the important purpose of keeping buildings in working order, which ultimately saves the installation money.
"FMTs -- they build mission readiness," said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel A. Espinosa Jr., during the award ceremony at Fort Campbell's Eagle Conference Room. "Everything you do in the Army is about readiness, and keeping up with the barracks that's readiness. Every time we have to spend extra dollars to put into the barracks, it's coming out somewhere."
Owens, who also serves as the brigade's engineer, became the Rakkasans' FMT two years ago after returning from deployment. As part of the job, he conducts visual inspections of 3rd BCT buildings and makes sure simple problems are fixed immediately, while larger issues can be carried to a higher level for review.
"It's a pretty big job. For the whole brigade, we've got 72 facilities," Owens said. "The hardest part is walking around every single building and checking everything out."
Inspecting ceiling tiles for signs of water damage, making sure electrical outlets have covers and inspecting for other safety and building concerns are all in a day's work for a FMT. It requires more responsibility, Owens said, but he enjoys the job.
"If the [air conditioning is] not working, you can walk in the building in the summer time and it's 100 degrees in there. People are going to tell you right away, that's a problem to get fixed right there," Owens said. "Same thing coming up this winter, it's going to be cold in a building where the heat's not on, so we'll have to do something to correct those."
Owens was surprised to surpass 5th Special Forces Group, last year's winner in the large unit category.
"You also have to create a plan to make the FMT system better, so that was my goal," he said. "To set up something where each FMT from each battalion could be better."
Conley became the FMT at the Rascon School of Combat Medicine in July. The combat medic happily took part in the voluntary building inspection requirement for the award, but he did not think much would come of it.
"I definitely didn't expect for this to happen," he said of the first-place small unit recognition.
By taking charge of "any minor small issues or repairs that can be done at the lowest level," Conley said he has already learned a lot about the importance of FMTs.
"If you don't take care of it, it will go bad very fast on you," he said. "With everything going on now with the [budget], we don't really have the luxury of letting things go until they break down. So we've got to make sure we stay on top of it. As long as we take care of our equipment, it will take care of us. Same concept with our building."
Second place and a $12,000 prize in the small unit category went to Army Field Support Battalion -- Campbell. For the large unit category, 2nd BCT came in fourth and received $3,000; third place and $10,000 went to 1st BCT; and runner-up 5th SFG was awarded a $25,000 check. Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization funds are set aside to be awarded to qualifying units through the incentive program -- a total of $140,000 this year.
With only six competing units this year, DPW Operations Officer Ken Snell said up to 10 units could have received money from the competition. Units, in conjunction with DPW, decide what the money goes toward, but it is intended for building improvements and maintenance.
"It goes right back into their facilities," Snell said. "… If it's a $60,000 project, that $60,000 buys a lot. The engineering team at DPW will help design and approve that project, and then we build it."
Campbell Regulation 420-5, Energy Conservation and Facilities Maintenance Programs, best explains the roles and responsibilities of the Facility Maintenance Technician and how the program is executed. A checklist of FMT responsibilities gleaned from this regulation was used during the voluntary, routine inspection to help determine the winners.
"We go in and we inspect and look for those obvious things -- light bulbs that are out; doors that are left open and the AC is running. That was a big one this year," Snell said. "We had a lot of open windows. Open doors.
"I will tell you, based on our independent scoring that we did, the difference between first and second place had a lot to do with some of those oversights."
With more than 400 newly-trained FMTs on Fort Campbell this year, Snell said these Soldiers serve as the "first echelon of maintenance." These individuals help save money, energy and alert DPW to building issues before they become major concerns.
"It's a really great program," Snell said. "We would like to see more participation."