HVAC/R keeps 380th AEW cool
Senior Airman Erik Nelson and Staff Sgt. Noel Sandoval, 380th Air Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration technicians, work on an AC unit outside of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing headquarters building June 8, 2012. Nelson is deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D. and Sandoval is from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)
by Tech. Sgt. Amanda Savannah
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
6/11/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- When the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature reaches 90 degrees by 9 a.m., calling for black flag conditions, people look to a cool room for comfort and to prevent overheating.
The responsibility for keeping the people and equipment of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing cool and comfortable falls to the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration section.
"We are responsible for over 2,600 split-system AC units, over 250 environmental control units, over 2,000 dehumidifiers, and six 250-ton chillers to provide AC for our hangars," said Master Sgt. Jason Mitchell, 380th ECES HVAC/R NCO in charge.
This equipment is located throughout the entire base, including the main complex, maintenance and operations area, munitions storage area, Army units and tent cities.
The HVAC/R section and its equipment are critical to mission success, especially during a deployment to Southwest Asia.
"HVAC is critical to the mission because we keep the communication equipment in air traffic control cool; if their equipment starts to overheat, the mission comes to a halt," said Mitchell, who is deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy. "We also provide AC for the [Army] Patriot missile sites."
It's also about keeping the people who keep the mission going, comfortable.
"When you're hot, you're uncomfortable. People need air conditioning to be able to function properly," Mitchell said.
With the desert environment and extreme heat, cool air is part of survival, said Chief Master Sgt. Freddie Davis, 380th ECES chief enlisted manager.
"Physically and mentally, we couldn't perform the mission without [HVAC/R]," he said.
The HVAC/R section is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, to maintain equipment.
"We take anywhere from 30-50 calls a day," Mitchell said. "Throughout both [12-hour] shifts we usually knock them out throughout the day. We ask people to be patient and use the customer service line when they call, and we will get to the call as soon as we can."
The typical response time is within a couple of hours.
"As calls come in, we pass them out to our crews, and as soon as they're done, they come right back to us and they're picking up more," said Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Tillman, 380th ECES HVAC/R craftsman.
As hotter temperatures arrive with summer, HVAC/R expects calls to get heavier. Though the section has a program where they routinely clean their equipment, they aren't able to keep up with the dust storms and heat, Tillman said.
The most important thing wing members can do to help HVAC/R, and themselves, is to take care of their air conditioners and dehumidifiers. If the unit is accessible, people are responsible for cleaning the units' filters.
"The easiest way to clean them is to take them out, lightly brush or bang them to get the dirt off, then run water on them," said Tillman, who is deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "Try to get it as clean as you can, because it's going to work better for you, which benefits you, your roommate or the office you work in. If you are restricting the airflow because you have a dirty filter, you're not going to get the good circulation and the cold air you need."
Mitchell also said people should not put items in front of units, which blocks air circulation, or leave doors open, which lets hot air in and cool air out.
Mold is also a possible concern, so maintaining dehumidifiers is important, Mitchell said.
"If mold starts growing, it's the occupant's responsibility to kill it," he said. "All you need is a little bit of bleach to kill the mold. As soon as someone sees signs of mold, they should take care of it."
Though the HVAC/R section appreciates wing members helping by maintaining their equipment, they are also happy to keep the wing comfortable.
"A lot of times people don't know who we are until their unit breaks down, and then they appreciate what we do," Mitchell said. "It makes me feel good that once we get the customer their AC, then they're happy."
Tillman echoed Mitchell's remarks.
"It's the end product," he said. "You meet the customer and they're not too happy, but they're happy to see you. Once you get [their unit] going, they appreciate what you do and have smiles on their face."
Tillman also enjoys being part of a community here.
"In turn [our customers] try to help us out, and that's the main thing here -- as a community, as an Air Force and Army, we all need to help each other," he said. "Everybody has their part in the mission, so it's one big group keeping things going."