Part 2 in a 2-part series
"Always ready, always there," isn't just the National Guard's motto. It's its mission.
Whether called on by the governor or the president, Guardsmen are prepared to answer.
However, readiness goes deeper than knowledge, training, leadership and location. What happens behind the scenes -- managing and maintaining the facilities in which these troops operate -- can make or break the National Guard's ability to respond when needed.
Many of these facilities are shared between multiple Colorado National Guard units, full- and part-time staff -- and even community members -- so managing and maintaining a building is no easy task, said Mike McCormick, state maintenance supervisor for the Colorado Army National Guard's Construction and Facilities Management Office.
"State maintenance technicians oversee multiple facilities, so they can't constantly be at one building to witness or annotate deficiencies," he said. "Good facilities management, including building managers, helps the Construction and Facilities Management Office by being the eyes and ears in each building."
Building managers are full-time Guard members with an additional duty: help keep their facilities operating year round.
"The biggest challenge a building manager has is to be in constant communication with all units that share the building and ensure all of their maintenance requests are entered in the work order system," said McCormick.
Buildings must also be in a ready state if and when an emergency strikes. This was the case during High Park fire in 2012, when the Fort Collins Armory was used as a command post by two Type 1 incident management teams.
"The Fort Collins Armory doesn't have the modern and technically advanced building automation systems that some of our newer facilities have, subsequently it requires more on-site preventative maintenance to keep its older mechanical systems in good working condition," said Army Maj. Robert Lawton, facilities manager for the Colorado Army National Guard Construction and Facilities Management Office.
McCormick said that the building managers are responsible for collecting and entering any and all building problems or deficiencies in the work order system. Thereafter, managers and state maintenance technicians assist with coordinating repair.
"It takes a Soldier who really cares enough to treat this extra duty as if it were his primary duty," said McCormick. "Full-time Soldiers have a lot to do and extra assignments such as these can sometimes be overwhelming."
This is the reason state maintenance technicians are responsible for reviewing work requests based on need, priority and cost factors, then either repairing those deficiencies themselves, or hiring contractors to have the work done.
"State maintenance technicians all have some type of trade background and almost half of them have a military background," said Lawton. "I can say with confidence that they know their buildings and they know those systems in those buildings."
When work is contracted, the state maintenance technician is responsible for verifying the work is complete and done correctly, and that the building manager is satisfied. The work order is then closed.
"They stay on top of the maintenance schedule -- it's their full time job not an additional duty like the building manager," said Lawton. "They really treat this like their own house. They're dedicated to taking care of the buildings, they're dedicated to taking care of the Guard, and most of them do this for the reward of serving the Soldiers."
Among the 34 facilities operated by the Colorado Army National Guard are two schoolhouses that operate nearly year round. The 168th Regional training Institute on Fort Carson is used primarily to train Soldiers on leadership development, while the High-altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training site in Gypsum is specifically focused on teaching high-altitude power-management environmental training to military rotary-wing pilots from around the world.
At the HAATS facility, the state maintenance technician is Mike Losey, a structural tradesman with many responsibilities, said Army Master Sgt. Greg Clancy, assistant building manager for HAATS.
"Losey is primarily responsible for the overall upkeep and maintenance of our existing building," said Clancy. "He performs general maintenance on all systems in the building and coordinates for external maintenance with other trades when required -- HVAC, plumbing, electrical -- he also ensures the student dorm rooms are cleaned and ready every week."
And with a new HAATS schoolhouse currently under construction next door, Losey's responsibilities are even greater.
"Mike is one of those guys who really cares," said Clancy. "Due to his extensive background in building and contractor experience, facilities chose him to be the state liaison with the builders of the new facility. He performs daily site inspections to verify standards are being maintained and work is performed in accordance with the building plan."
According to Bob Datson, Construction and Facilities Management Office design and program management branch chief, Colorado is the most active construction state in the nation. Dating back to 2008, the Colorado Army National Guard has been designing and constructing approximately two new buildings a year.
Though new facilities bring new responsibilities, more space and state-of-the-art technology make them a worthwhile investment, Datson said.
"Obviously the new HAATS facility will give us much-needed room to operate," said Clancy. "The new facility will enable to us to have all our mission equipment under one roof, which will decrease response time for state and local emergencies. It will also allow us the flexibility to have local and state first responders come to our facility for training, which is tough to accomplish in the old facility."
New, modern facilities also provide building mangers and maintenance technicians a greater resource to provide for the needs of the community.
"They also have all the latest training equipment; state-of-the-art, green energy features; and mechanical, electrical and architectural equipment that will ultimately save the Guard and taxpayers countless dollars -- and leave a much smaller carbon footprint," said McCormick.
Most Colorado National Guard facilities are available for use by community organizations, making them an even greater asset.
"In particular, the new readiness centers provide very large local facilities to be used for all kinds of community events," said McCormick. "It might be the building staff member who has a child in scouts, the town mayor who wants to honor veterans with a dinner, or even a local wedding."
Annual community events such as the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Stand Down, held at the Denver Armory, and food and toy drives in the Grand Junction Readiness Center and Sterling Armory, are just a few examples.
"These buildings are a true community asset," said McCormick.
Stories in this series:
Location, location, location: Colo. Guard facilities provide speed, flexible response to community
Keeping the lights on: Technicians, building managers maintain unit readiness