MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Of the thousands of Marines who have taken part in Mojave Viper training, most would admit the living conditions at Camp Wilson are not the coziest.
But thanks to two Combat Center Marines who have dedicated their time and efforts, the unit living quarters are getting a facelift which will make life a little less rough on the Marines who spend weeks at a time training here.
Staff Sgt. Kevin M. Ferree, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Exercise Support Base, Exercise Support Division, and Cpl. Philip Schreffler, a former infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, have laid more than 100 truck loads of concrete onto the floors of the K-spans, half-dome structures where Marines reside at Camp Wilson. They began the 10-day project Sept. 18, laid two concrete slabs per day and finished Monday.
“We’ve poured over 1,000 cubic yards of concrete here, which is easily over 100 truckloads,” said Ferree, whose father owns a concrete business. “Every slab we pour each day is 60- by 12-feet and four inches thick. But we pour two halves each day so we essentially complete one total K-span per day.
“This is the biggest project by far I’ve undertaken, and it’s just the two of us,” he added. “This would usually be a 10 to 15 man job, so it’s pretty big.”
Ferree said he volunteered to take on the project and with the help of Schreffler, who had no concreting knowledge, the two have saved the Marine Corps tens of thousands of dollars.
“By doing this, he has saved the Marine Corps close to $50,000,” said Navy Lt. j.g. Earl Chow, assistant public works officer, Facilities Maintenance Division. “For a contractor to come do one of these units, it would cost about $4,000 each. Usually we try to get volunteer labor, Sea Bees or Marine engineering units out here for work like this.
“Staff Sgt. Ferree has the means and the capability to get the job done,” continued Chow. “He’s done a great job out here.”
Ferree, a combat engineer by trade, said he knows how much this will mean to the Marines to have concrete floors instead of the dusty sand floors, because of his experience with the former Combined Arms Exercise, now Mojave Viper.
“I came out here as a lance corporal for CAX and we stayed in A-frames with no doors,” said Ferree, a 30-year-old York, Penn., native, who has worked at Camp Wilson for two years. “This will really help Marines training because it will keep them out of the dust. A lot of them tell us the living standards in Iraq are better than what they have here. That hit us hard and we saw more money coming into upgrading the camp.”
Living off of energy drinks and sheer determination, Ferree said his and Schreffler’s days during the project have begun around 3 a.m. as they poured concrete the rest of the morning. Schreffler said neither of them has changed their concrete-stained clothes or shoes in more than 10 days.
These 10 buildings, when finished, are only a portion of the total number of renovations planned for Camp Wilson over a two- to three-year project, said Chow.
Chow also said some ideas FMD are considering is the installation of air conditioners and more insulation against the summer heat and winter chills.
“We still have a ways to go with the camp, but it’s a good start,” said Ferree.