Powering up the mission!

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
B-2 Spirit pilots cannot fly sorties if maintainers do not even have the electricity needed to open the hangar doors.

Fortunately, Airmen and civilians from the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical flight provide members of Team Whiteman the electrical power to accomplish their missions.

"Our mission is important to everyone who supports Whiteman Air Force Base," said Tech. Sgt. Everett Vaughn, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman. "Without electricians, supporting Whiteman Air Force Base's mission would be difficult, simply due to the lack of power and lights."

A dedicated team of 40 Airmen and civilians work together to maintain electrical systems on base, from office circuit breakers to runway edge lights.

"We also directly support the aircraft maintenance mission and the amount of sorties that fly out on a daily basis," Vaughn said.

The direct support the electrical flight provides requires the team to pay close attention to detail and provide quality work.

"Quality means making sure each wire is in the right place and ensuring every aspect of the job is complete down to the nuts and bolts," Vaughn said. "If any piece of equipment is installed incorrectly or improperly maintained, it could make that equipment faulty and hinder the customer's mission."

Electrical system technician repairs include underground, exterior and interior structures. Exterior system technicians maintain underground and overhead electrical lines as well as street lighting circuits.

Examples of interior light fixtures are wall outlets, breaker panels, lights and indoor lighting boxes. The underground lighting systems are cables that run underground to power infrastructure and equipment on base, according to Vaughn.

"We have electrical diagrams that tell us how the electricity runs throughout the base," Vaughn said. "They show us every circuit that runs from the power plant to each facility."
Being able to provide repairs to all electrical systems on base requires technicians to use a wide range of tools.

"We use everything from wire strippers to bucket trucks and line trucks," Vaughn said. "We probably use any tool you can think of."

The technicians use the bucket trucks to fix street lighting circuits on base and the line trucks are used to demolish circuits and set overhead lines on utility poles.

Since Whiteman's mission never sleeps, the electric shop is always heavily tasked, according to Vaughn.

"We go out on jobs every day," Vaughn said. "There is always something to be done whether it's a request to install a system or a request to repair a circuit."

Depending on the severity of the task, the amount of time it takes to perform jobs can range from minutes to days to weeks, according to Vaughn.

"The jobs we work on are broken down to emergency, routine and urgent categories," Vaughn said. "If a work requirement is needed that affects mission readiness, it will be categorized as an emergency."

Urgent requests are taken care of within five days and routine requests are accomplished within 30 days.

"If we lost electricity coming from the power plant, for example, that would be an emergency," Vaughn said.

The requests the electricians have to work on come from applications put in by building facility managers via AF Form 332.

"The customer would input the description of the job to be completed and the location," Vaughn said.

One of the most important tasks electricians are responsible for is ensuring airfield lighting is always operational, according to Vaughn.

"If we don't keep the airfield lights up and running then none of the aircraft will be able to take off or land after returning from missions," Vaughn said.

As electricians ensure systems are powered up and maintained, people who work on base can also play an important role in preventing electrical mishaps.

"To prevent mishaps and save energy, people can turn off monitors upon leaving their work centers," Vaughn said. "If someone has a microwave or refrigerator plugged in along with a space heater that pulls more than the required amps for a circuit that could cause the circuit to trip."

Vaughn said daisy-chaining extension cords and surge protectors can also cause a circuit to blow.

The work electricians do saves the Air Force thousands of dollars, according to Bryan Field, 509th CES electrical systems foreman.

"We perform approximately $125,000 of annual maintenance," Field said. "We can save over 30 percent of the cost of a project that goes out on contract."

In 2012, as part of an energy conservation program, the electricians changed all of the street lights on base to more energy efficient lights. This also saves the Air Force money because the life expectancy of the lights will be longer, according to Field.

Whether it is troubleshooting a malfunctioning wall outlet or repairing components on a flightline lighting system, members from the 509th CES electrical shop are working to ensure the mission is powered up.

"The most satisfying part about our job is knowing that the work we do supports all missions on base," Vaughn said. "Knowing that we allow maintainers and members of the medical group to have light is a very rewarding feeling."