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The work order eaters

ALI BASE, Iraq - They're a hungry bunch and they wolf-down a lot of work orders, about 14 a week since their arrival here.

The seven Airmen assigned to the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop have been busy maintaining, improving and constructing infrastructure for Air Force and coalition forces here since January.

In the past six months, they have helped build shelters to house MQ-1 Predator aircraft, they have helped build the Army a site to operate in, and they have helped the Navy with shelters to work from.

The structures Airmen have had an effect on this base; every organization in the air expeditionary group here has benefited from their appetite for work, said Senior Master Sgt. David Ewings, 407th ECES operations superintendent deployed from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

"One the first day we arrived we were out painting the centerline on the runway and it has been non-stop since then," said Tech. Sgt. Sangva Sam, the shop's noncommissioned officer in charge, who is deployed from Eielson AFB, Alaska. "I can honestly say we've only had about four slow days where we could smell the roses, if there were any here."

In all, the shop has completed more than 300 different jobs, which include
woodworking, metal work, masonry, locksmithing, signs, painting, milling, roofing or anything else their squadron asks them to do.

"With civil engineering you have to be ready to work and you have to be ready to deploy," said Airman 1st Class Aaron Nickell, a structural apprentice deployed from Eielson AFB, Alaska. "This job can be very challenging, but a lot of times it's just hard work."

The sergeant and his crew have completed so many work orders it has created a subculture within their small shop. They now look forward to each incoming job and joke about how they want to eat them up.

"We love to consume work orders, we eat them for lunch ... breakfast and dinner," Sergeant Sam said. "As soon as we get them we like to consume them while they're hot, we don't let them go stale. They're good eating."

"If something goes bad, they don't call the ghost busters, they call structures," Sergeant Sam said. "The fun part is you can do anything as long as you know how to do it and you can do it safely. You can get creative and you're always moving from different work sites."

"You go from concrete one day to woodworking the next, but you have to be willing to work hard and eat it up, everyday," said Airman Nickell.

Along with eating hard, the Airmen have to drink lots of water to stay hydrated in the 120 degree heat and it helps wash the "food" down. Staff Sgt. William Ferguson, a structures craftsman deployed from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, drinks about 10 quarts of water before lunch when he's out on the work site.

The structures shop has an appetite for work that could rival any food-eating champion, but it hasn't shown on their waistlines at all.

"I don't think these guys have ever worked this hard, every one of them has lost a significant amount of weight, two of them have lost more than 45 pounds each, which is a direct result of the work we have accomplished here," Sergeant Sam said. "We're lucky that all the work orders we've consumed in the last six months had low [carbohydrates] and zero [trans-isomer fatty acids]."

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