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NEWS | June 27, 2014

The coolest job on base: Civil Engineers work to keep Airmen cool

By Melissa Walther 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As the mercury rises there's no need to get hot under the collar; the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation and air conditioning shop is hard at work to keep U.S. Air Force Airmen cool.

"It's been a pretty big challenge this summer because we're short on manning," said Master Sgt. Neco Johnson, 633rd CES HVAC noncommissioned-officer-in-charge. "We've got people deployed, separating, retiring and we're just not at full staff; we're actually down to about half our assigned personnel, but we're getting the job done."

That job involves taking care of the maintenance and repair of heating and cooling units for more than 200 buildings on Langley Air Force Base.

With the unusually cold winter and warm spring, Johnson said his shop has had their hands full keeping the temperature comfortable in work areas and dorms.

"We were busy all winter and went straight to a hot spring - it just didn't stop," Johnson said. "There's no time for downtime so we try to do things after hours to keep our morale up. That motivation helps us work harder. We're a family and it shows in our work performance."

According to Johnson, certain facilities have priorities over others when it comes to staying cool. Near the top of that list are the dorms, and Johnson said his team is working to ensure they stay comfortable for the foreseeable future.

"Airmen have to get their rest, and they can't do that if they're sweating at night or freezing," he said. "We are pretty much running 24-hour operations right now to make sure we can get everything done, but there's still a lot of work to do, so we ask people to please be patient with us."

One of the things the HVAC shop is in the process of doing is replacing outdated cooling systems on buildings throughout the base.

"It gets to the point where it costs more to keep repairing these cooling systems than to just replace them," Johnson said. "It's like working on an old car; there's only so much maintenance you can do before it makes sense to get something new."

Johnson said that while replacing the current systems is a lot of work for his already-busy crew, the payoff will be worth it, in terms of efficiency, cooling and cost savings.

"Newer systems will reduce the need for future repairs," he said. "That means we'll be able to maintain the systems and keep them running longer. There are three we're working on replacing right now on base, and we're looking at repairing or replacing more in the future, as money allows."

With more than 200 work orders currently filed, Johnson warned that it may be some time for lower-priority projects to get resolved.

"If you need our assistance, please call our customer service number," Johnson said. "They're set up to be able to help you, and that helps us. There's a system in place that puts the correct priority on projects, and we're working as fast as we can to get through that list. We understand how much it can affect your work and home life when you're hot. I assure you, we will get out to fix what's wrong as fast as we can."

To report a heating or cooling issue, contact the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Service Call Desk at 764-5343 or 764-5342.