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Ground broken for much needed backup generators, which support no fail mission

(L to R) Col. Patrick Williams, 557th Weather Wing commander, and Col. Richard Wagner, Deputy Director of Air Force Weather, who served as the 557th WW vice commander from 2016 - 2019, break ground on June 16, 2021 for a $4.1 million backup generator project at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

(L to R) Col. Patrick Williams, 557th Weather Wing commander, and Col. Richard Wagner, Deputy Director of Air Force Weather, who served as the 557th WW vice commander from 2016 - 2019, break ground on June 16, 2021 for a $4.1 million backup generator project at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The back-up generators will supply up to four megawatts of power, enabling continuous authoritative global predictive environmental awareness to warfighters and a wide spectrum of Department of Defense operations — a no fail 24x7 mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Leticia Cunningham)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

The 557th Weather Wing achieved a major milestone as they broke ground June 16, 2021, at Offutt Air Force Base on $4.1 million worth of backup generators that’ll supply up to four megawatts of power, enabling continuous authoritative global predictive environmental awareness to warfighters and a wide spectrum of Department of Defense operations — a no fail 24x7 mission. 

Acquisition of on-site backup power generation began in 2014 and continued as numerous power outages impacted the execution of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, anti-terrorism operations in desert areas, flight planning, fuel consumption and information warfare.

“What makes this significant is that for the past several years we’ve been trying to get our own dedicated power source for the building for the no fail mission that we have,” said Col. Patrick Williams, 557th WW commander.

The need for backup power generation was validated and documented by the Joint Mission Area Assessment Team. Based on their assessment, 557th WW worked with the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron to request the capability, then the Air Force Power Conditioning Continuation Interfacing Equipment office to design and implement.

The need was also included in the Installation Risk Response Plan and submitted to joint staff for prioritization and action. The process has taken time, but the urgency of the 557th WW mission earned high priority treatment culminating in full funding.

“This has been a team Air Force effort with (Secretary of the Air Force Energy, Installations and Environment) support and funding, (Air Force Life Cycle Management Center) contract management, 16th Air Force design support, and the 55th Wing local support,” said Jeff Rife, 2d Operations Squadron operations flight director.

Rife championed this effort from the very beginning with the 2014 JMAA assessment to the groundbreaking ceremony.

“The final capability will reduce the data center’s four megawatt burden from base resources and supply dedicated on-demand backup power to ensure uninterrupted environmental intelligence support to the global joint force,” Rife said.

The wing’s headquarters facility is extremely reliant on power to keep their high performance computing center running, so this new capability is incredibly important.

“If the sources were to go out, the entire joint force would be without weather capabilities,” Williams said. “With our own backup power, we don’t have to slave off the 55th Wing’s and Offutt’s generator power, which means that both (U.S. Strategic Command) and the 55th Wing will have more power for what they are doing, and we have our own dedicated power and don’t need to take their power.”

Also on hand at the ground breaking was Col. Richard Wagner, Deputy Director of Air Force Weather, who served as the 557th WW vice commander from 2016-2019 and fought hard for the funding of the backup generators.

The 557th WW expects completion of the project in mid-September.