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Cpl. Aaron Rooks
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan –
Being at a construction site before anyone else arrives is a nightly routine for Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Landon Church, an electrician from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-5.
For several nights he has walked down an empty, wooden hallway partially lit by a mixture of moonlight and a spotlight off in the distance, stopping sporadically to observe different sections of the structure. After he moves on, he leaves the building as calm as it was when he found it.
Church, a native of Byron, Mich., is the project lead electrician in building the combat operation centers here. Since March, his knowledge and experience have been essential in the progress made here by Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan and its subordinate elements.
“This has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Church said. “I knew in the beginning that the MEB project was crucial to the beginning of operations here and it has been an honor to head up and manage the electrical portions of the project.”
Church, 24, has less than four years in the Navy and is in charge of planning and estimating the electrical requirements of the three buildings.
He and his team of four electricians completed the electrical portions of the brigade’s command center less than two weeks ago and installed more than 10,000 feet of wiring throughout the building that will run power to hundreds of computers, telephones and more.
“I spent many hours reviewing building codes for electrical components and making sure I had an overall knowledge of every aspect of the project, down to the very last detail,” Church said. “With that knowledge, I had the best idea of how to go about tasking, coordinating and managing my troops.”
Church was trained as an electrician in Wichita Falls, Texas, from May to July 2006. It was then where he learned about electrical distribution and interior wiring, motors and controls, and how to climb utility poles and troubleshoot electrical problems.
From Texas he was then sent to his current duty station at Port Hueneme, Calif,, and deployed to Kuwait from September to November 2006, and later to eastern Afghanistan’s Camp Salerno from December 2006 to February 2007.
Nine months before coming here he was assigned to his battalion’s convoy security element. There he focused on weapons training, improvised explosive device awareness and urban combat.
Shortly after arriving here, he was handed the blue-prints for three of the largest projects he’d ever fathomed, even though he hadn’t worked as an electrician for almost a year.
“I kind of stared at the blue-prints for a while, wondering how I would ever plan this out,” Church reminisced. “I chose to push through it one item at a time, and pretty soon the plan came together and eventually evolved into one of the biggest projects the Seabees have seen in quite some time.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Garrison Hardisty, project supervisor, said he had no doubt in Church’s ability to adjust to the challenge, and proof of that is the recent completion of the MEB-Afghanistan COC.
“That’s what Seabees do, we make do with what little we have,” Hardisty said.
Church attributes his success to the hard work and commitment of the electricians in his team. He said he’s happy with the results he’s produced so far, but said that wouldn’t be the case if not for his men.
“I’ve tasked them, and they haven’t let me down yet,” Church said. “They put in the extra effort to get the mission done.”
Seaman Apprentice Aaron Bluitt, 36, an electrician from Santa Barbara, Calif., said he found inspiration in following Church, a leader 12 years his junior. He said Church is always well organized and puts forth a lot of extra time in planning and executing every task he’s given.
“I’m glad I’m able to be a part of his crew,” Bluitt said. “His positive leadership has helped us get the job done. He’s very good at what he does and I’m happy that I’ve been able to learn as much as I have from him.”
Bluitt said Church gave him the opportunity to install the circuit panels inside the MEB-Afghanistan COC, a task not normally give to a junior electrician. Because of this, Bluitt said, Church developed a lasting impression as a leader in the eyes of his troops.
“The best thing to do as a leader is to give the troops a sense of accomplishment,” Church said. “Once they see that it all works and comes together, they develop a trust in you.”
Church sees the success achieved by his team every evening before he leaves the job site. He said he’s blessed to have the opportunity to lead such a meaningful project and to lead sailors who help him succeed.
“At the end of the day I go home, get in my rack and think about what I did that day,” Church said. “I’ve always felt satisfied.”