Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

February 4, 2016 at 7:57am

CE enables air power worldwide

Staff Sgt. Alan Wall (right), an electrical systems craftsman, and Airman 1st Class Patrick Wright, electrical systems journeyman deployed to the 407th Expeditionary, install high voltage cables December, 2015. U.S. Air Force courtesy photo

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"The mission does not happen without us."

These were some of the first words Lt. Col. Michael Francis, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, had for the returning members of the 627th CES Jan. 27 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Field.

From Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, to Ethopia, Jordan and Ahmed Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait, 37 airmen from the 627th CES deployed in 2015 to varying environments, enabling the U.S. Air Force to have global impact.

Master Sgt. Jason Norberg, 627th CES water fuels systems maintenance section chief, was one of nine members deployed to the Al Udeid Air Base.

According to Norberg, the water fuels maintenance shop and electricians made some pretty vast improvements on the existing infrastructure there.

They installed new pumps and controllers that supplied water to the entire base.

"Without those water pump houses, there is roughly 10,500 people that would go without water," said Norberg. "That would shut down everything from laundry, to food preparations, to bathing."

Because a lot of the airmen, who deployed, were deployed in different roles than at home station - their skills were put to the test and exceeded.

"We saw a lot of people grow professionally and technically," Norberg said. "We challenged them and really got to see what they were good at."

Maintaining a base infrastructure requires more than one section of a squadron, though.

Senior Airman Anthony Deang, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning journeyman, who also deployed to Al Udeid, played just as much of an essential role as anybody else.

The weather in Qatar has temperatures regularly exceeding 116 degrees Fahrenheit, so cooling is a must.

"We provided cooling for the Combined Air Operations Center system so they could work on their computer cells," said Deang.

The CAOC commands and controls the broad spectrum of what air power brings to the fight including global vigilance, global reach and global power.

"The CAOC is very important," Deang said. "But it's so hot out there sometimes the equipment overheats. My job was to rebuild the equipment, fix it or replace it."

Senior Airman Edward Crowell, 627th CES pavements and equipment operator, was also deployed at Al Udeid Air Base.

"Some of our major accomplishments were, we designed and constructed 20,000 feet of airfield vehicle parking area," said Crowell. "With our job, it's easy to see the impact. It gives me a sense of fulfillment."

At 340 miles away from Al Udeid Air Base was Master Sgt. George Phinn, 627th CES superintendent of interior, at Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait.

He said this deployment marks his eighth, but the experience was refreshing for him.

"This deployment took me back to the basics," said Phinn. "Because it was a bare base we were building it from the ground up."

Phinn's team put in a six-megawatt power plant, consisting of eight generators, which supplied energy to the entire base.

It took a month to get the power plant up and running.

Phinn said a lot of the equipment out there has been around a while.

"The average generator out there was thirty years old," Phinn said. "So in order to do repairs, we had to strip old generators and use the parts to fix the ones we could."

One of the challenges they faced was extreme weather.

"One day it was 135 degrees Fahrenheit," said Phinn. " The generators go into overheat mode when it gets that hot and we have to shut them down."

Phinn and his team of CE members from across the world worked hard to keep them running.

"The best thing about CE is the team work," he said. "Just like a football team, we have different positions and CE is the offensive line. We all have to work together to get our mission accomplished."

And Phinn said he learned an invaluable lesson regarding being a good leader as well.

He was referring to an instance where a senior airman and staff sergeant approached him about a generator that had been down for four years.

"I didn't even think about the equipment because it had been in a fire," said Phinn. "They came to me and started showing me ideas on how to fix it, and it worked."

The piece of equipment they saved was valued at $145,000.

"We always have to encourage our airmen to voice their opinions because they do have some great ideas," Phinn said.

In total, the 627th CES deployed 37 airmen in 2015 to four countries for 180 days.

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