Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oregon airman utilizes skills as procurement sergeant to help complete mission in Jamaica

Above: Master Sgt. Preston Golleher, 142 Civil Engineer Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard, and Canadian Warrant Officer Brian Stark of the 14 Wing, Waterfront, Nova Scotia review lumber for sale at a local hardware store in Kingston, Jamaica, during the multi-national engineering exercise “Tropical Hammer.” Sgt. Golleher and WO Stark are procurement officers for their respective units.

According to an airman with the Oregon Air National Guard’s civil engineer unit, procurement is an art as much as it is a skill.

Senior Master Sgt. Preston Golleher, who is with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142 Civil Engineer Squadron, demonstrated both his art and his skill during the unit’s recent deployment to Jamaica, March 21 – April 4, during a four-country joint military exercise in Jamaica known as Tropical Hammer.

His mission was to locate, and either rent or price an airless paint gun so his troops could spray primer on interior walls of a structure they were helping to build.

Golleher’s unit was joined by Canadian military members from the 8-Wing, Trenton, Ontario; engineers from the 558th Special Engineering Squadron, Nottingham, U.K.; and local Jamaican Defense Force members.

Over two weeks, the multi-national force spent two weeks modifying metal shipping containers known as Conex boxes into classrooms for a trade school and a counter-terrorism school.

“If somebody doesn’t have something, it falls on me to get it,” said Golleher, who is normally a heavy equipment operator for the 142 CES. On this deployment, however, Golleher was the supply sergeant—responsible for ensuring the unit had the tools and supplies they needed to complete the mission.

His tool bag—the things he uses to accomplish his mission—includes less traditional engineering materiel.

Instead of a hammer, or Sawz-all, or even a nail gun, his most cherished resource on this deployment was his government credit card, a local driver named Byron Skirlew, and “tenacity, savvy, and a bit of a silver tongue”.

“A lot of this job is political,” he said. “Sometimes you have to schmooze to get what you want.”

Saturdays in Jamaica begin late in the day, so according to Golleher it is important to get started early to avoid traffic.

“Sometimes I think they are trying to kill us,” joked Golleher, referring to other drivers as he negotiated the streets of Kingston and surrounding area. “But Byron gets us there in one piece,” he added.

Stressing the importance of utilizing locals not only as a way of getting around, but also as linguistic and cultural translators, Golleher openly admired his driver’s ability to help the process.

“Byron has been gold,” he said, beaming.

Golleher, a 31-year member of the Oregon Air National Guard, cited an example of how they sometimes learn the hard way.

“A vendor delivered us something that didn’t work,” he said. “I joked with him, ‘hey, why you give us that junk, give us something that works.’ He took offense and said he wasn’t going to work with us again. I caught some yelling for that one.”

Accompanied by Warrant Officer Brian Stark, company Quarter Master for the Canadian engineers, Golleher headed into town to locate a paint sprayer. He gave Byron free reign to get them to their destination, starting with the local paint shop.

“One of the real hard parts of this job is getting the locals to understand what you are looking for,” he said. “We had to Google ‘self tapping nails’ before they understood what we wanted,” he said, laughing.

To overcome issues regarding “translation” (locals in Jamaica speak English, but with a thick accent), Golleher carried a color picture of the item he was trying to locate, and readily showed the photo instead of trying to explain what he wanted.

The group drove through neighborhoods as varied as first world to third world—from corner vendors selling raw fish to McDonald’s restaurants and multi-plex cinemas. Byron navigated the roads, highways, back streets, and alleyways expertly, narrowly avoiding accident after accident as if it were routine. At one point, the vehicle was assaulted physically by a street vendor who was unhappy at the lack of sale.

“I do not like it when they touch the car,” said Byron, who took obvious pride in the service he was providing.

All told, they visited five different hardware and paint stores, spread over three towns—Kingston, St. Catherine, and finally, St. Andrew—before finding their prize at a hardware supply shop during a proverbial “one last try.” Delta Supply Co. Ltd., was closed for business, but with a little haggling, they were able to get inside.
After showing Winston Hamilton, the store’s service representative, the picture Golleher carried, several phone calls were made, and the proper equipment was located for rent at a competitor’s store. While it was too late to pick up the item, they learned of the biggest limiting factor; too high of a price.

“You always have to have a plan-B,” Golleher said.

The trio ended up with paint brushes, suits, and thinner from Up Park Camp, a military camp site.

“The guys are going to have to do it by hand,” he added.

In retrospect, Golleher said even though they did not find the exact resource, they made some important connections in the local community.

“We found a hardware store that was practically one-stop-shopping,” he said. “That will save us a lot of time. And Warrant Officer Stark got Mr. Hamilton’s name, who can assist him even after we (142 CES) are gone.”

Golleher, who said the Jamaica trip is likely to be his last deployment, describes his responsibilities as more than just getting the tools and supplies to do a job—it’s about building relationships and networking so things are easier for the next guy.

“Its politics, its international relations, and communication,” Golleher added.

Story and photo by Master Sgt. Jon Dyer, 142 Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office

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