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Self Help Program cuts costs for station

By Cpl. J. Oliver Johnson | | March 25, 2004

As time goes by, improvements are needed aboard the air station to keep it running smoothly. But some of those improvements can be costly to the station or to the individual units here.

The Self Help Program helps to cut some of those costs by allowing Marines to take on some of the projects themselves.

"How it works is we provide all the materials for some of the projects that can be done to the base, and the Marines actually provide the labor," said Staff Sgt. Freddy A. Armijo, station Self Help coordinator. "These projects range from painting office walls to small-building construction and everything in between."

For example, if a unit needs a shelf erected in an office, one option would be to use the unit's appropriated funds to buy a new shelf or hire a contractor to build one for them.

Another option would be to contact Self Help, who would supply the unit with all supplies and tools necessary for the Marines within the unit to build the shelf themselves, thus saving the unit money that could be spent on other needed things.

"Instead of (the money) coming out of their operating funds, it comes from us, and the Marine Corps pays for it," Armijo said. "If you hired a contractor to do it, he could charge $13 an hour for a job that may only take 15 minutes to complete."

For those wishing to take on a project themselves, however, there are some rules that must be adhered to before construction or modification can begin.

First, the Marines doing the project must have some knowledge of what work is to be done, whether it's from military training or personal experience.

Second, the project must comply with all safety regulations and not create new hazards.

"If someone wants to do something like build a shelf over a doorway, the fire department can come in and cite the unit and destroy the shelf," Armijo warned.

Third, if the project calls for the removal or installation of walls or structures, the station facilities department must approve.

"Facilities has a map of where every wall and every door is on the base, and every room has to have certain considerations as far as electricity, ventilation and space," Armijo explained.

There are some projects that Self Help will not assist with.

"We won't (provide materials for) construction to buildings that are scheduled to be demolished, and we don't provide furniture or materials to build new furniture," Armijo said. "Finished furniture is cheaper to buy than to build."

If existing furniture, such as a large desk, needs repairs made to it for safety reasons, Armijo is more than happy to help out.

"If it's a safety issue and you need materials to make existing furniture safe, or if you need something like a holder for a fire extinguisher, then I'll get it for you in a heartbeat," he said.

For smaller, simpler projects for units lacking experience, Self Help will provide instruction for the Marines.

"I'm not going to make you super-proficient in construction, but I will tell you what to do in order to get the project done," Armijo explained.

For most of these projects, the materials and tools can be available to the units within 10 days of the time they request assistance.

For larger projects requiring more than just a paint brush or a screw-driver, help can be sought from the combat engineers from Marine Wing Support Squadron-371, whose past projects include laying new sidewalks, building the brick wall near the station's main gate entrance and construction of the building that houses the post office boxes next to the station post office.

"It's better for us to do it than some contractor, because Self Help provides all the materials and we provide all the labor, so it saves the Marine Corps all the labor costs," said Staff Sgt. Matt McDowell, MWSS-371 construction shop foreman, who also works with drafters and surveyors within his squadron to make sure the projects are properly measured out before construction begins.

After requesting assistance from Self Help for a larger project, Armijo advises that MWSS-371 also be notified at 269-2562 to check with the combat engineers' availability to take on the project.

"If we're deployed or involved with something else at the time, we might not be able to help you out right away," said McDowell, "But the best thing to do is to call us, tell us what you need and see if we can help out.”

Currently, the squadron is building a storage area to house the all-terrain vehicles used by the Department of Safety and Standards outside of their office, saving the station several thousands of dollars in labor costs, said Armijo.

Since December, when Armijo began working with the Self Help Program, he estimates the program has helped save an estimated $13,000 for the station and its individual units.

For more information, or to schedule a project with Self Help, call Armijo at 269-3524.

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