PHOTO CAPTION: John McClamma, maintenance engineer and team leader, and Barry DeFleron, maintenance mechanic, test out the newly constructed doors at The Landing during construction in June. The four-man maintenance team is responsible for general maintenance on 23 different properties on post, as well as providing DFMWR with its construction needs.
November 14, 2013
By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 14, 2013) -- Fort Rucker is a place where heroes fly and proudly wear their wings on their chest, but there are also unsung heroes who help shape the installation into a place that many people love to call home.
The Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation's four-man maintenance crew is made up of a group of guys that love nothing more than to fix, fiddle and build things -- while focusing on teamwork and creativity.
John McClamma, maintenance engineer and team leader, and maintenance mechanics Steve Waltz, Barry DeFleron and Patrick McKay make up the team that takes care of things on the installation from everyday maintenance to large construction projects.
"We basically take care of all of DFMWR's activities from the bowling alley to the golf course, and any new construction at these facilities," said McClamma. "We get jobs from little bitty things that they want us to build to major construction projects, and the things we build you can't get from (a store). Most of the things we build are handcrafted and made out of our shop."
One of the biggest projects the team has had to take on was the reconstruction of The Landing, which is also among their favorite and most challenging projects.
The challenges of most projects don't usually come from the physical labor, but from interpreting what people are trying to convey into a physical manifestation, according to DeFleron.
"The idea for (the new) Landing came out of someone else's head. We had to try and interpret what that idea is, and if we don't get it right the first time, then we have to start again and do it until we get it the way they want.
"We're fortunate in that we have a really talented crew here," he continued. "Some of us have different strengths that we play to and we just keep working at it until we get it right."
Waltz's strength is with sheet metal, which helped construct the now signature hangar doors featured in The Landing. The doors were completely constructed by hand from scratch, said Waltz, and all they had to go on was an idea, added McClamma.
"All they told us was that they would like for us to use galvanized tin and for us to make it look old, and we went from there," he said.
From there, the team cut out the sheet metal, constructed the frame for the doors and molded scraps of material into what is now a standout piece in one of Fort Rucker's more frequented restaurants. The team aged the doors to give them a weathered look by using toilet cleaner, according to DeFleron.
Some other project that the team has had to use their creativity on was for the Children's Festival where they had to construct a children's full-sized castle with a working drawbridge.
"One of the ladies for the festival came to us and asked us to build this castle, and all they brought us was a plastic toy castle from their kid's toy box and asked us to replicate it," said McClamma. "We just went from there and we built it for them from the ground up."
Other projects include building stage flats for theater groups, rebuilding stables at the riding stables, building props for festivals and even setting up the stages at Freedom Fest.
Ingenuity is another one of the team's strengths, and something that has earned McClamma the nickname MacGyver, who is a TV character from the popular show of the same name. The character was well known for being able fix or make anything with very little materials.
"They call me that because I can pretty much fix just about anything that comes down to me," he said. "I'll find what I need, go off to the side and figure out how to make it work."
McClamma has earned his wealth of knowledge and experience from 36 years of maintenance work in various locations, and said there is nothing else he or his team would rather be doing.
Team members said they work best when they work together and another one of their team-strong characteristics is resourcefulness.
When there is a project on the installation, they try to use every piece of material that they can, and if there are left over materials or materials that can be salvaged, the team recycles those materials.
One example is when Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center was built, some areas were constructed with the wrong type of wood. Instead of discarding the wood, the maintenance team used that wood to construct cabinets and display cases for the Silver Wings Golf Course pro shop.
Also, during the reconstruction of Rucker Lanes, there was leftover wood that the team is using to build countertops for the bowling center.
"We love what we do and that's a big part of it," he said. "It makes it so that you're proud about the work you do, and if you're proud about the work you do then the stuff you put out is (a better quality product)"
Waltz agreed, adding that having something to show for the work they put in is an added bonus.
"When you finish a project, you have a finished product that you can see and look at," he said. "When you see other people respond to your work and see what you've done, it's something that you can be proud of."
"Unless they don't respond positively," DeFloren said, laughing. "If that's the case, then we didn't' do it."