Electrical Power Production: No power, no mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marco A. Gomez
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

 Have you ever noticed a subtle flicker of lights in your office? Or heard the gentle humming of generators?

That’s the unmistakable sound emanating from one of the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron power production team’s generators hard at work on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

Without the electrical power production team maintaining the base's emergency generators, the base would have nothing to fall back on in case of a power outage, ceasing operations at mission-essential facilities.

“If the power goes out, the mission will stop,” said Master Sgt. Trevor Wilkinson, 436th CES noncommissioned officer in charge of power production. “If we don’t maintain our generators, the mission will stop, [because] every facility that’s mission essential has a generator on it.”

Preventive maintenance is the key to ensuring Dover AFB’s emergency power support doesn’t go out, Wilkinson noted.

“Preventive maintenance is incredibly important because it ensures backup electrical systems will continue to work in case of a power outage,” said Wilkinson. “When we do our preventative measures, we have to run all the generators once a month and [transfer] the power [over] to our generators for each facility.”

The generators are designed to start up on their own, almost immediately, in case of a power outage on base. If the power goes out, the team's hard work throughout the month will pay off as the generators kick on without needing any personnel present.

Despite some of the obstacles the team has faced in the last year, the electric power production team has highly trained individuals ready to perform critical tasks.
“Our biggest obstacle in the last year was COVID,” said Wilkinson. “A lot of our teams got sent home; we had to do one team on, one team off, but we still had to get preventive maintenance done no matter what because the mission doesn’t stop.”

Although the team operated on split shifts, it was important that they continued to work on preventive maintenance to ensure the generators would function if needed.

“At the beginning [of the pandemic] we got sent home just like everybody else,” said Senior Airman James Wolfley, 436th CES electrical power production journeyman. “Most of our equipment, if maintained properly, is completely automatic. We are really here to make sure that it functions properly.”

The electrical power team members acquire a vast skill set, applicable to any and all deployed locations. Wilkinson clarified how Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (Prime BEEF), and Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers (RED HORSE) work together to provide vital mission support to deployed agencies.

“Prime BEEF is what we are when we are deployed, taking on a support role to deploy and sustain the base,” said Wilkinson. “RED HORSE are the ones that actually go in and build the base, so they go in first, they’ll build it up and Prime BEEF will come right behind them and sustain the base they’ve built.”

Airmen from the electrical power production team could deploy and build power plants for bases in deployed locations.

“Power is just as important over there as it is here, if not more important,” said Wilkinson.

When electrical power production technicians return stateside, their focus shifts back to preventing a mission stoppage due to a power outage.

“It is a requirement for us to do our tests, but some people undervalue what's happening until their power goes out,” said Wolfley. “When your job is entirely a back up, it's hard to tie it directly to what’s going on around you. But when power goes out, everyone is really happy that our stuff is functioning properly.”

Another big part of the electrical power production career field includes aircraft arresting systems that are designed to rapidly decelerate landing aircraft.

“Our job here is different than if we were deployed or at a fighter base,” said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Doan, 436th CES electrical power production craftsman.

Since Dover AFB houses mobility aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy, there is no current requirement for aircraft arresting systems. The team focuses primarily on preventing a mission stoppage due to a power outage and ground automobile retractable barrier (GRAB) net maintenance.

“We’re also in charge of maintaining the GRAB nets here on base,” said Wilkinson. “We do regular monthly maintenance and make sure the encasings are replaced if they’re broken and the deployment system is functioning properly.”

The Airmen in the 436th CES power production shop continue to work tirelessly on the base's back-up power plants and other critical infrastructure. Their efforts, while often unnoticed, provide a critical safety net so the 436th Airlift Wing can execute its mission of providing rapid global airlift, combat-ready Airmen and unrivaled installation support.

“I am immensely proud of the power production team’s hard work and dedication to the mission,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Olson, 436th CES commander. “Our power pro team is an integral part of the 436th CES and is crucial to Team Dover’s continued readiness in face of any crisis that may arise.”