FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Nestled within the Directorate of Public Works is the mitochondria of the 88th Readiness Division Base Operations Support mission cell, the Facility Plans and Engineering section.
“Everything we do, from the smallest facility repair of changing a door handle or a lightbulb to the big stuff of building a new building it all starts with planning. I like to think that we’re the touch off point for everything that the DPW does,” said Bud Berendes, community planner, DPW, 88th RD.
The 88th RD’s Facility Plans and Engineering section is comprised of general engineers, real property specialists, real estate specialists, geographic information systems specialists, master planners, project managers and is a mix of Active Guard and Reserve Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and contractors.
The Base Operations Support mission of the 88th RD aligns with the strategic line of effort that encompasses providing versatile non-deployable infrastructure which is resilient, sustainable, and capable of supporting readiness for mobilization and deployment. For a readiness division, achieving that goal comes down to planning.
“What I’m responsible for is all aspects of long-range planning and executing our capital investment strategy,” Berendes said. “That could be anywhere from programming military construction projects or executing our, what we call, reset projects. Those are larger scale sustainment, restoration, modernization projects.”
The role of community and master planners within the 88th RD is a vital one that ensures Soldiers have the needed spaces and places to train, both now and in the future.
“I like to look at it like I am personally responsible to ensure that that Soldier has the space he or she needs to perform the mission they are tasked with doing,” Berendes said. “Whether that’s facility space in terms of a desk to work at to set up their computer or whether that’s space out in a maintenance shop to turn wrenches on a vehicle or space out on the ground to actually go out and train on their MOS (military occupational specialty).”
Working in conjunction with Berendes’ community planner duties is Tucker Robeson, a master planner within the 88th RD DPWs Facility Plans and Engineering section.
“I do strategic planning level analysis,” Robeson said. “I look at all the buildings we have across the AO (area of operations) and I answer questions about what should we do with the buildings we have; where do we need more buildings; where do we need to repair or improve capacity capability with buildings; why; does it match regulatory guidance in terms of what people should or shouldn’t have; do they have enough, not enough.”
The preferred way to meet Army Reserve readiness goals is to be able to build new buildings and facilities. However, the most cost prudent method is often refurbishing and repurposing the existing inventory.
“We’re always trying to leverage what our reality is to best support the mission,” Robeson said. “Because getting something new built requires way more money, way more approval cycles, way more oversight, way more budget, everything. We are assessing those things and re-designing.”
The chief of Army Reserve, which is currently filled by former 88th RD commanding general, Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, often dictates that mission.
“Often, as leadership turns over they’re going to have different priorities, whether it’s at the CAR level or whether it’s at the CG level,” Berendes said. “Whenever those priorities change we like to think that we’re agile enough to shift our focus.
“As Lt. Gen. Daniels comes in and we anticipate she’s going to put out her own priorities this fall sometime, we feel like we’re positioned really well to pivot should she decide to change that focus,” he said.
To prepare for the potential shifts in focus when the CAR role changes hands, Berendes said they use a list that is sortable through various data points and measures.
“We have a really robust list of projects in both (military construction and Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization) and we’ve set up a way to prioritize the projects using objective criteria so that if there’s a change in priorities we can easily shift that criteria around, that will allow us to slide projects up and down the list based on how leadership guidance has changed,” he said.
Those potential projects, Berendes said, run the gamut of facilities in the 88th RD arsenal.
“Our focus is really spread across the board in terms of facilities management, project management, project execution, real property inventory has been a big focus from HQDA lately, and then real estate,” he said. “We try not to be too ‘one-laned’ in our approach and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that over the years.”
One challenge faced by the Facility Plans and Engineering section is the geography of the 88th RDs area of operations.
“When we execute projects, as an example, you’re dealing with 19 different sets of environmental regulators at the state level that we’ve got to keep happy; 19 different state historical preservation officers, if it’s a historic property that we have to deal with. Different Corps of Engineer districts that have different business rules in place, depending on where the project is,” Berendes said.
To address these sometimes confounding issues, the Facility Plans and Engineering section has broken the 19 states into separate regions with different managers for each, Berendes said.
“We have a total of six project managers; there are three contractors and then three AGRs that are our project managers,” he said. “What the contractors provide us is that subject matter expertise. What the AGRs provide us is that voice of the government and that robust experience that they’ve had being a Soldier and knowing what the Soldiers need in terms of facility improvements and things like that.”
What allows the section to be so flexible and accomplish what it does can be traced to the sense of teamwork that exists between the members.
“It would be impossible to do it without the culture that has been created within the DPW,” Robeson said.