Saturday, November 17, 2001

Soldiers at Schofield Barracks poured concrete yesterday
to form a 5,000-pound security barrier. More than 2,600
concrete barriers are being built as the Army here
beefs up its security.

Isle firms get
windfall from Army

Local companies are called upon
to supply $750,000 worth
of materials for barriers

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Hawaii's construction materials companies received an unexpected $750,000 shot in the arm when the Army realized it had to build 2,600 security concrete barriers by December because it could not get them from any supplier.

"There just wasn't enough available locally," said Lt. Col. Dan Cummings, commander of the 84th Engineering Battalion at Schofield Barracks.

With security a major consideration at all Army installations, Schofield Barracks engineers got the word about the barriers on Sept. 19 and were given four days to come up with a plan.

Lt. Col. Kevin Beerman, commander of the 65th Engineer Battalion, said his soldiers took on the task like a real-world tactical mission, sending soldiers to various Army posts to survey the terrain, the roads and the buildings that the concrete barriers would have to protect.

"We also wanted to make sure we kept the natural beauty of these bases," Beerman said. "We wanted them to be esthetically pleasing and that they would blend into the environment of Hawaii."

The concrete blocks had to be large and strong enough to stop any vehicle going 55 miles a hour.

By the end of this week, Capt. Michael Baez, B Company commander with the 84th Engineers and project coordinator, said 1,538 barriers will have been built, with another 1,000 to be completed by the end of the year.

"It was simply just setting up an Army factory," he said yesterday.

That is exactly what has been done at the 84th Engineers motor pool.

In assembly-line fashion, the forms for the 6-foot-high, 3-foot-long barriers are being built using 35 miles of rebar to strengthen the concrete blocks. In another assembly line, civilian concrete trucks line up to unload 1,960 cubic yards of concrete.

Once the plywood forms are removed, the blocks are painted -- yellow if they are used as barriers on military roads and at the front gates, or tan for other uses.

Cummings said the planning, construction and placement of the concrete barriers support the soldiers' wartime mission.

The task is not easy. Since mid-September the Army's 120 Schofield engineers have been working from 6:30 a.m. to past 6 p.m. each day. Their assembly line has turned out 55 concrete barriers daily.

"It's a mixed blessing," Cummings acknowledged. "The circumstances leading up to this mission is unfortunate, but it did give us a chance to practice our wartime mission."

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