Directorate of Public Works labor handles small and large details
A Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Twilight Tattoo at Summerall Field or Conmy Hall Twilight Tattoo is a one-hour combination of song, music, precision drills and Army History narration, but all the pageantry is precluded by hundreds of hours of preparation.
A majority of those man hours are logged by the Directorate of Public Works and its contractors who thrive on setting the landscaping table and finalizing the details for tattoo, change of command and retirement ceremonies.
Preparing for field ceremonies is a high-priority mission for the DPW. From estimating costs and supplies to the grass-cutting, which employs close to three dozen contractors, and lawn edging and street sweeping, the DPW team punches the time clock early to ready the base and grounds for Military District of Washington and JBM-HH military observations and functions.
The group is a vital part in making a Twilight Tattoo, a Whipple Field Independence Day celebration or a change of command operate without a logistic disruption. While attempting to eliminate last-minute glitches, Contracting Officer Representative and Engineer Technician Dave Metzger relies on a contracting staff to expertly mow fields on JBM-HH.
“For the Fourth of July, we’re looking at 200 hours of contract support just in the grass cutting,” Metzger said days before the Independence Day holiday. “We have to cut not only three-directional [cuts] on Whipple Field but on Summerall, too. I have to cut all the way to the pool because the pool is going to be open. So that area has to be clean, but we have to take care of the sight lines — any travel corridor coming into this must be manicured like the fields.”
Also on Summerall, the DPW crew is the front line on the field and has a list of assignments to prepare for the weekly tattoo. One assignment takes a complete team effort.
“Pulling an electrical cable is not a one-man operation; it’s a 12-man effort,” Metzger said. “You have[DPW shop supervisor] Louis Martin out there supervising and pulling cable; Louis isn’t the type who just stands there; he actually has to touch his work as well.”
Rain or shine, DPW is always ready for last-minute adjustments — including change of venue due to inclement weather — which is part of a typical DPW day.
“We do get last-minute changes right in mid-stream,” said Tony Taylor, DPW branch chief for buildings and grounds. “We may get a call that says, ‘Hey, we’re not having it [the tattoo] at Summerall, We’re going indoors.’
“Now don’t forget with Dave and his operations, if it rains, it goes indoors and then we start talking about custodial [operations],” Taylor continued. “Custodial then has to handle Conmy Hall, the clean-up and the VIP room. From an O and M [operations and maintenance] perspective, we get our directive from the IOC [Installation Operations Center].”
And the DPW team does get last-minute changes all the way up to show time. An example would be a recent eleventh-hour installation of handicap ramps at Summerall Field.
“At the last minute [for a tattoo], we put up a handicap ramp,” Taylor said. “To many, it is, ‘Just bring a ramp up.’ To us, it is utilizing three or four vehicles and eight or nine people to get that ramp up there, let alone to put it together.”
To achieve a flowing schedule so “Pershing’s Own” singers, bands and Old Guard actors can rehearse for an upcoming tattoo, all DPW preparations — edge-trimming, grass cutting and cable pulling — are finished by nine in the morning of a show.
After the tattoo is completed, the face of DPW is again seen the following day during clean up.
“We’re back first thing in the morning,” Metzger said of the Thursday dawn muster. “[At] zero six-hundred hours, they [the crew] must be on the field cleaning. Sixteen guys are involved in the clean-up. They scatter from every corner. Now remember, Summerall Field covers all the way past the mess hall to all the way to the caissons. Then I put two guys in the parking lot where the buses park. Soon as they are done with that, they go to every parking lot.”