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Rushing water
Water rushes from a hose after being sucked through a water pump at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Nov. 21, 2013. After an inch of rain, some low areas on base experienced minor flooding. Several specialties from the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron were on site and quickly returned the base to normal operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)
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CE returns base to normal operations after flooding

Posted 11/30/2013   Updated 11/30/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/30/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As temperatures dropped and the first inch of rain fell in more than five months,  the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing officially welcomed the fall season.

Unfortunately, the rainfall caused a flood and several minor issues including electrical outages, heating, ventilation and conditioning issues.

The 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron received more than 250 work order calls within the first 24 hours after the rainfall. Every civil engineer shop, including customer service, engineer assistants, fire department, HVAC, electrical systems, power production, utilities, structures and heavy equipment, was called out to assist with recovery operations.

"We prioritized all of the work orders using our contingency response plan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles Comfort, 380 ECES programs flight commander. "We instructed base personnel to protect buildings the best they could using sand bags and various other means. We established several sand bag pick-up points and individuals did a great job of protecting their buildings, marking roof leaks and turning off electricity. They really helped our guys out."

The work order process was key to the response, according to Comfort, who calls Morris, Ill., home. While some calls went directly to the shops, all calls were forwarded up to the operations flight commander, U.S. Air Force Capt. Brian Anderson.

The operations flight commander maintains positive control over all shops. In the event of an influx of work orders, the operations section, keeping in mind the broader view of base operations, is able to prioritize work orders on the fly, in accordance with Wing guidance.

Planning and organization keeps the shops from being pulled in many different directions, said Anderson. Once the work orders were prioritized, the shops used the information to coordinate with other civil engineer agencies and work from location to location as quickly as possible.

There was some mission impact as a result of the weather. However, with the help of base personnel, facility managers, and the 380th Expeditionary Mission Support Group partners, the base was back to normal operations quickly, said Anderson. For example, the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron provided additional water pumps and the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron augmented the filling of sandbags for multiple facilities.

Most of the permanent fixes are already accomplished, but some of the structures and street sweeping work requires about a week to complete, said Anderson, who calls Columbus, Ohio, home, and is deployed from Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. A lot of the sealing and sheet metal screw problems are something the structures team will have to take time to look for.

"The call volume was 100 percent more than we usually get," said Anderson. "I am impressed with how fast our guys knocked out the different jobs they had, especially our electrical shop. They were running from place to place working in water with live electricity."

"Everything is not waterproof and the annual rainfall is minimal to none here," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jeremy Field, 380 ECES NCO in charge of electrical systems. "We had everything from roof leaks shorting out lights to HVAC units under water shorting out. Everyone around base did a great job of protecting their equipment, which helped us out tremendously."

The support from base personnel decreased the time frame for civil engineer technicians to understand the problem and coordinate with other CE entities to solve the problem, said Field, who calls Cheyenne, Wyo., home and is deployed from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

"A lot of our guys just got here, so they are working on equipment they don't know yet," said Field. "The coordination from base personnel and our other teams helping us diagnose complications really helped us. With limited knowledge of the systems, our technicians did an outstanding job learning quickly and getting the base back up."

Over the years, the 380 ECES has compiled lessons learned from rainy seasons of previous years, said Comfort. The response times and fixes have become quicker, but safety is always a top priority. Future projects and additional knowledge collected from this storm will improve the 380 ECES capabilities further.

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