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379th Civil Engineers focus on efficiency

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

One building; 20 leaky tub spouts, faucets, toilet hoses or shower heads; 180 light fixtures to replace with LED units; 77,000 square feet of scuffs, marks and stains to address; and a team of nine to do it.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron facility management team was created to address an increasing amount of “enhancement” work to dormitory facilities at Al Udeid Air Base. These are fixes that do not pose a risk to safety, security or significant mission impact – such as leaky faucets, cosmetic wall damage or inoperative ceiling fans. With more than 30 dorm buildings on base, as minor repairs accumulate, it gets more challenging to address them in a timely manner.

“Little work orders here and there aren't a big deal, but when you try to stretch out … it really slows down our process,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Roop, a structures specialist with the 379th ECES. “When two of us are working on one room, it can take five or 10 minutes. When each of us is tackling a room in two different buildings, it can take 25 minutes by yourself.”

Cue the facility management team: two electrical systems specialists, four water and fuels specialists, and three structures specialists. Building by building, they take on every work order for that space – from mission-essential to enhancement work – and complete it in one go. They start with resident issues that have been filed and submitted for a work order by the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron for the dorms.

When residents call in a problem, the lodging office of the 379th EFSS logs it into a system that sends the work order to the 379th ECES. Then, when moving to begin work, both the 379th ECES and lodging staff walk through the building room by room and note those problems already in the system, as well as those they find along the way. This proactive condition assessment helps reduce reactive service calls that team members would need to break away to handle. A report is compiled, and the work begins.

“We start with problems like plumbing, where something may need to be taken out to fix, and then we go in and patch it up on the structures side once the internal problem of something – like a leak – will stop impacting an external part of the building – like walls or ceiling tiles,” said Roop. “I definitely prefer working building by building. We've got it down to a pretty decent science. And once the electricians and plumbers are done, they end up helping us finish up structure work. It usually takes us three to four weeks, working six days a week, to make our way completely through a building.”

This approach allows the team to address every issue in the building no matter how minor, and well-maintained living quarters are an important contribution to the quality of life for military and civilian personnel assigned to Al Udeid AB.

“Going home to dripping faucet or a flickering bulb, it’s going to bother you and impact how you do your job because it lingers in the back of your mind,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Romaire, 379th ECES FMT noncommissioned officer in charge. “Our mission might not be flying planes or disarming bombs, but it's the little missions that help the big mission: Making you comfortable so when you go do your job that's one less thing to have to worry about.”

So far, the team has tackled three buildings and have completed 27 work orders made up of 1,276 line items. Looking forward, there are three more buildings to go before the next deployment rotation takes over.

“Our wing commander asked us to prioritize going through and making sure everything was up to date in the permanent dormitory areas,” said Romaire. “My main goal when I got here was to – instead of just doing the main fix – why not make it better and save the Air Force money?”

And that approach paid off. Buildings already worked on have seen a savings of what will amount to around $700,000 a year due to the installation of LED lights in place of fluorescent tubes or tungsten bulbs in rooms and ceiling fans. LED bulbs also have a much longer lifespan, meaning these upgrades and other improvements will also reduce the frequency of recurring maintenance requests.

With work like this happening in every building, the future savings and energy efficiency of this simple work will add up.

“It's a massive amount of stuff that's being done, just not everyone sees what's underneath,” said Romaire. “Kind of like the iceberg effect: You see this little bit of surface work on top, but you don't see what's underneath it all for us to make all the fixes happen. Knowing our work improves the quality of life for all base personnel, as well as helping the mission is something that we enjoy doing even when it sometimes goes unrecognized. It makes my job easier knowing that I can count on my guys without question. They'll do it to best their ability, if not better.”