Class of 2020 cadets will begin returning to the U.S. Military Academy in five separate cohorts starting Tuesday. Once the initial inprocessing and seclusion time is complete at Camp Buckner, they will begin streaming back into the main campus barracks. The cadets should instantly notice the spick-and-span cleanliness of the buildings compared to what they left in early March prior to spring break and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since late March, the Directorate of Public Works’ custodial barracks crew has been working intensely to deep clean the nine barracks cadets will return to early next week, according to Sergio Baquero, DPW custodial head manager for the custodial barracks workforce. Davis, Bradley Short, Sherman, Lee, Scott, MacArthur Short, MacArthur Long, Pershing and Eisenhower Barracks were all cleaned thoroughly. Two other barracks—Bradley Long and Grant—are currently under construction and were not included.
Generally, the restrooms in the barracks are cleaned three times a week by the crews assigned to a specific building. However, Baquero said, the deep cleaning of each of the barracks buildings became priority number one after a directive was passed down to DPW by West Point Garrison commander Col. Cecil Marson.
“We power washed, sanitized and disinfected each restroom (in each barracks),” Baquero said, which included a heavier duty degreaser to get deeper into the dirt. “We cleaned the hallways, we cleaned the stairwells, stripped and waxed the floors. All this is thanks to the supervisors, especially Nate (Workmann) and the employees who are doing the hard work on this and putting their efforts into maintaining these buildings.”
Workmann, who was recently promoted to supervisor, oversees the day-to-day overtime crew, which has involved non-stop exhaustive work since last March.
“During the week, we have been doing basically 12-hour workdays, with three hours overtime a day,” Workmann said. “Then during the weekends, we have been coming in eight hours a day, except this past weekend as we kind of ramped it up even more.”
As the overtime boss, Workmann said he currently floats from building to building. However, that will only last until the cadets come back next week and he can then supervise a specific building. Workmann has been laboring non-stop since late March, working seven days a week, but he gives much credit to the guys who have been working for him.
“Three people have been here with me through the whole entire month and a half— Kareem Robinson, Anthony Sims and Cheynne Sims,” Workmann said. “Those guys have been here seven days a week with me as well.”
The crew of 48 who clean the barracks and the 138 total, which includes 90 custodial members from the academic and administration buildings, have been working a one week on and one week off schedule during this time period outside of those who worked daily or choose to do overtime.
“Obviously, we have everybody else who has been here,” Workmann said. “There are people who have been here multiple days on overtime, multiple days on the weekend. I have nothing but good things to say about all of them. They keep me motivated while I keep them motivated.”
Overall, there have been very few bumps in the road outside the original need for power washers.
“Sometimes there were little obstacles where we didn’t have things, like power washers at first,” Baquero said. “I spoke to my higher ups that we needed something stronger to clean, we got the power washers and it helped execute the mission and complete it.”
There was also the build up of wax on the floors that needed some in-depth work by the custodial crews.
“The floors haven’t been cleaned in a number of years,” Sal Manteria, supervisor for Scott Barracks, said. “Going into some of the barracks, because Scott did not get waxed for the most part, you are talking about years of wax build up. We spent hours stripping it to get ready (to clean and wax).”
Manteria recently became a new supervisor and he said his job is to facilitate whatever is needed for his crew of five or six people at Scott Barracks.
“I’ve broken up my team members where they have their own set of assignments to do,” Manteria said. “Scott Barracks is broken up into 13 towers (or sections), so each custodian has 2 1/2 to 3 towers, each one has a different number of floors, so they have a different number of bathrooms to clean.”
However, the biggest obstacle that Manteria faced within the last eight weeks was coming up positive with COVID-19 in late March.
“The first week I was all aches and pains besides running a temperature that got up to about 103.5, but that was only a day or two,” Manteria, one of five DPW custodial supervisors to get COVID-19 in varying degrees, said. “Then suddenly, the aches and pains started to go away and then I was having trouble breathing. I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs. I would get to the top of stairs and I would have to go lay down—that is how bad it was. That lasted three or four days. Some days were better, some days were worse.”
Manteria’s biggest fear he said was having to go to the hospital where they would intubate him and the next thing he knows he would be dead. He had heard too many of those horror stories, but luckily he has recovered as did the other four crew supervisors.
“I feel that I am pretty much back to normal,” he said after missing four weeks of work due to COVID-19 and the quarantine. “That first week or two back I still felt weak. Now, I feel I have my strength back. Being in Scott Barracks, the fact we have no elevators and just divisions, I have been walking a lot of steps—so I know I’m back.”
The work that began with Sherman Barracks in late March is now complete outside of doing some touch up work in each building, Workmann said. But, none of it would be possible without the due diligence, motivation and work ethic of the whole crew coming together for a common purpose.
“Motivation is big. If it wasn’t for (Workmann) and his influence of advising them and getting them hyped up with the work, ‘yes, we are going to make it,’ I will give it to them,” Baquero, who filled in for Manteria’s supervisory role while he was sick, said. “All this effort and support, it’s him and the other employees and supervisors who did the work. All credit goes to them.”
Manteria added, “My guys have been going a great job. It has really been quite the experience to see all the extra work they have put in. No one has really complained at all about it. They come in and just get the job done.”