by Senior Airman Montse Belleau
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
10/25/2012 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- "Our
squadron's motto is 'Engineering Combat Power' and that's what we did,"
Maj. Joel Purcell, 777th Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron said
recalling his deployment. "I was in charge of a detachment that
designed, managed, constructed, and maintained facilities and
infrastructure allowing combat forces to continue their mission."
Purcell was deployed to Shindand AB, Afghanistan for four months and to
Bagram AB, Afghanistan for his last two months. He left Whiteman in
January and returned in September.
Purcell said his job ranged from constructing dining facilities, entry
control points and tactical operations centers, to planning new mission
bed downs and even drawdown and transfer plans of bases to Afghan
"What makes the Expeditionary Prime BEEF Squadron unique is the speed in
which we can respond to a situation," Purcell said. "Generally when an
emergency happened, we were on a helicopter to the area the same day."
In addition to the response time, Purcell said his team offered
specialized engineering skills other organizations do not possess.
"A few examples of this is my team was able to respond to a State
Department request to assess a bridge between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan
within two days, and we were able to construct a temporary ramp to
recover a C-17 that had slid off the runway during a snow storm,"
He said being an engineering 911 force, he never knew what order he would be given.
"I still remember a call I received late night on a Sunday from
AFCENT-forward. I was told 'we have some individuals relocating to a
classified location next week, we need your folks on the ground
surveying the area and planning their bed down tomorrow morning, we will
have a helicopter on the ramp in five hours!,"' Purcell said. "My
typical day was anything but typical."
At Whiteman, Purcell is in charge of the Civil Engineer Squadron's
Operation Flight where he is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance
and repair of the facilities and infrastructures on Whiteman.
"In Afghanistan, the engineering forces I led were similar, but rather
than maintaining a base, we were responsible for a region," he said.
"Most of the day-to-day maintenance in Afghanistan is done by
contractors; we were called in when the timeline was short, or the area
was too dangerous to get a contractor in."
Even though he was busy with his duties, just like during his previous
three deployments, Purcell said he found time to help with the USO and
also tutored some of his Airmen working on their bachelor degrees.
"I have deployed many times and I still keep in touch with folks I met on my first deployment 13 years ago," Purcell said.
Purcell said overall it was a difficult but rewarding deployment, and
the best part of his deployment was the people he met and the friends he
"Every time I deploy and I interact with the locals, I am reminded how
lucky we are to be Americans and how much we take for granted," he said.