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Air Force HVAC helping to keep Army warfighters cool

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Giovanni Sims
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

With temperatures rising, troops in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility must take preventative measures to protect Prince Sultan Air Base’s warfighters from the intense summer heat, while also maintaining their ability to safely accomplish the mission.

This task mostly falls on the shoulders of the Airmen assigned to the 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and refrigeration shop. By performing maintenance on the base’s air conditioning units, they are able to ensure the survivability of PSABs assets and its people. However, in some cases, they have to employ a more innovative touch in order to provide the same reprieve to joint systems.

Recently, a group of HVAC Airmen were asked to assist the U.S. Army, and conduct maintenance on several of their HVAC systems.

“We were initially contacted by our joint partners to borrow some specialty HVAC tools,” Master Sgt. Travis Reno, 378th ECES HVAC superintendent. “We realized that our HVAC team could offer assistance to help troubleshoot and repair some of their air conditioning equipment.”

Working on the different system presented its own challenges. Each unit has similar components, but different designs in operation.

“The compressor, condenser, evaporator and expansions valve can be found in each unit,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Laurice, 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron HVAC technician. “However, each manufacturer has different placements of other components like the electrical voltages, refrigerants and wiring diagrams.

The HVAC team decided that in order to confront the problem, they had to change their perspective. Instead of identifying the parts that were unfamiliar to them, they decided to identify the parts that were. They soon realized that while the anatomy of the system’s core was largely different, some of the critical parts were the same used in the various units they conduct maintenance on day to day.

“At times working on the different systems can present a challenge both in troubleshooting the unit and finding the correct schematics,” Laurice said. “Our team has vast experience and knowledge that has enabled us to rise to the challenge.”

“As HVAC Airmen, we work on many different manufactured HVAC units during our careers,” Reno added. “This experience gives our team a unique chance to exercise their mental flexibility and come together as a team to understand how different systems work. This is a critical skill that will be beneficial to their careers when they need to operate in joint environments.”

The Airmen from the HVAC shop were able to not only further their knowledge of understanding different systems, but also assisted the Army end users in being able to understand and identify the different components of the systems that enable their systems to work in extreme heat.

“We appreciate their eagerness to learn,” Reno said. “We've hosted five classes discussing advanced HVAC troubleshooting and principles. During each class, the Army was very engaged and jumped at the opportunity to get their hands dirty. It's made our time at PSAB enjoyable.”

Armed with the basic knowledge of how the unfamiliar systems worked and having the ability to pass knowledge of their own units to their joint partners, Airmen from the HVAC shop have been able to create an environment of camaraderie among the services.

“It definitely enhances our interoperability,” Reno said. “We now have a better understanding of how they operate and the capabilities they bring to the field. This experience has helped streamline HVAC issues here into one line of effort and has been a force multiplier for Airmen and Soldiers going forward.

While Airmen and Soldiers deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base are performing their mission essential duties, it’s the HVAC Airmen that provide safe working conditions to combat the extreme heat and ensure a safe and mission-ready environment.