MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
When a water line breaks, spilling 300k gallons of water, engineers from the 23d Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) search through the 300 miles of pipe under Moody Air Force Base to fix it.
Airmen from the 23d CES Water and Fuels Systems Maintenance are on-call 24/7 to sustain and maintain the base, water, sewer and gas lines and upkeep of the 696 facilities with water and fuel infrastructure.
“We maintain all the water lines run to the base, to include fire suppression, water lines and sewers,” said Senior Airman Wayland Bailey, 23d CES water and fuels maintenance journeyman. “If water and fuels [systems maintenance] was not here, the facilities would not function. There would be no fire suppression in the facilities and you wouldn’t be able to flush a toilet. Without CE, the Air Force can’t operate.”
In order to provide quality water to the base, the water and fuels shop conducts weekly preventative maintenance, including checking fire systems, gas lines, sewer stations and water separators. This allows the water and fuels shop to catch problems, such as a leak or a fault in an alarm system panel, early and mitigate some of the on-the-spot trouble shooting a water and fuels maintainer may face.
For Bailey, some of the most challenging parts of the job are the dangers of the equipment and staying safe while on the job.
“Natural gas is the most dangerous part of our job because there’s 40 pounds of gas rolling through a line,” Bailey said. “If you don't know what you're doing, you can easily blow yourself up or the people around you. Another danger is the sewer. A lot of time, we're working in areas that are a very small and with the sewer comes methane gas. You have to monitor the air quality because you can actually get overcome by the gas.”
Another challenge the Airmen face are water main breaks. If there is a break, the Airmen have to find it, cut a 10 to 20 foot section of the old pipe and replace it with a high-density plastic pipe, which does not rust.
“We've had a lot of water breaks,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Linam, 23d CES NCO in charge of water and fuels. “We're dealing with really old infrastructure that was put in the ground in the 1940s and it’s cast iron and steel. It's all rusted out so anytime we shut down valves or anything like that, it’s creating pressure differentials in the pipe and it breaks up the integrity.”
To overcome these challenges and accomplish their mission, the shop has to work with other shops in CE. Water and fuels Airmen also coordinate with the Lowndes County water department, who notifies the shop when a pressure imbalance is occurring.
“We work with all the shops,” Linam said. “[We work with] electricians who shut the fire systems down so we can do the maintenance them. We're maintaining facilities so we work with structures who cut the wall for us if we've got a break behind a wall. We also work with Lowndes County for our water. They produce all our water here on base, run the water plant and run the sewer plant.”
Lowndes County employees run the base’s water treatment facility and sewer plant as part of the community partnership initiative. This contract helps the 23d CES Airmen maintain an achievable workload, while also providing Lowndes County with jobs and training opportunities on a smaller distribution system.
Since the water and fuels shop doesn’t have Lowndes County providing water downrange, the deployed Airmen have different challenges to overcome with the help of the other CES Airmen
“Instead of maintaining a base, we actually build and sustain a base downrange,” Linam said. “We purify water with a reverse osmosis water purification unit and we deal with all the sewer water. After that, we're able to help everybody else out.”
The coordination and teamwork downrange allows water and fuels Airmen to bring back what they learned while deployed and apply it at home station.
“Whenever we coordinate with all of the other CE shops downrange, we take in what they offer us and what they can give to us to complete our job,” Linam said. “If they need help putting up tents, we'll put up tents. If we need help laying distribution line, they'll help us lay pipe. We can't do our job without the other shops and we all work together really well. It's amazing what we do together.”
Without water and fuels Airmen, Moody Air Force Base couldn’t attack, rescue or prevail.