Snow Mountain Ranch, military partner on projects
On Thursday, Sept. 10, Snow Mountain Ranch will host several distinguished members of the United States military, Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs and community members for a private familiarization tour of the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) projects on ranch grounds.
The partnership between Snow Mountain Ranch and the Department of Defense’s IRT program marks its third year in 2015. This summer, members of several Navy Construction Battalions (CBs, or “Seabees”) are on site at Snow Mountain Ranch, building shade shelters and completing other small construction projects that will enhance the experience of guests to the YMCA of the Rockies location while providing troops with essential skills and knowledge for future deployments.
The IRT program was formed in 1993 by the Department of Defense to concentrate on three areas: education and job training, health and medical services, and civil engineering projects intended to enhance unit training and readiness.
In partnership with Grand County-based TDS Construction, Snow Mountain Ranch has identified several projects over the past three years that fulfill the missions of both the IRT program and the YMCA of the Rockies. These projects have included the construction of bath-houses, shade shelters and many other small-scale projects. Duane Sanderson, owner of TDS Construction, has seen the benefits of the program first-hand.
“These projects bring economic value to our community,” Sanderson notes. “TDS Construction is employed by this project and then hires specialized sub-contractors to instruct the IRT members whether it be in areas of electrical, heating, plumbing or otherwise. With the IRT teams being in Grand County, sometimes up to 60 members per project, they are also in turn supporting the economics of our community by eating in our restaurants, participating in our activities and shopping in our stores.”
Snow Mountain Ranch Center Director Trueman Hoffmeister says that having the Innovative Readiness Training program on site directly impacts the guest experience and fulfills the mission of the YMCA of the Rockies each summer.
“When we think of providing an environment that builds healthy spirit, mind and body for all, the work that the IRT completes here is certainly a big piece of being able to deliver that,” Hoffmeister says. “Their work provides a place where all our guests and community members can safely and comfortably explore the outdoors and come together as a family.”
Paul Simpson, a lieutenant junior grade with the U.S. Navy who grew up in Denver, is enjoying his time being close to home, friends and family at Snow Mountain Ranch. Simpson explains that the environment at Snow Mountain Ranch and in Grand County is a draw for members of the IRT, both for the caliber of projects they complete while here and for the amenities and activities within the community.
“One of the biggest challenges we see has been rotating members of the Construction Battalion away from Snow Mountain Ranch to other projects and parts of the country. We constantly see Seabees who want to return here on their applications,” adds Megan McConnell, Heavy Equipment Operator Chief and Assistant Officer in Charge for the IRT team currently on site.
The Seabees involvement in projects like the ones at Snow Mountain Ranch dates back to World War II when there was an increased need for military construction workers. In December of 1941, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell established the Naval Construction Battalions in order to have construction workers that could also defend themselves in war time. Following World War II, the Seabees were also utilized in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Currently at Snow Mountain Ranch, the IRT teams are working on a bath-house for the Yurt Village on property and will soon be working on platforms for the next installment of Yurts. Trail maintenance in both summer and winter months is also a focus of the IRT, which enhances the guest experience immensely, especially for Nordic skiers who visit Snow Mountain Ranch.
“The local contractors have assisted us in big ways,” McConnell said. “Things like learning how to pour concrete at this elevation or making sure that our projects adhere to the local codes have really helped our Seabees expand their knowledge and skills. It’s truly a great partnership.”
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Diane Howell, 77, only leaves her house right now for errands and essentials. As part of the age group considered most vulnerable to COVID-19, she’s felt isolated as she avoids most social interactions.