Seabees ensure AFWA mission doesn't skip a beat

  • Published
  • By Ryan Hansen
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
With the Missouri River rising and the possibility of flood waters reaching the installation, base agencies have been busy reviewing their flood contingency plans.

During one comprehensive review, the Air Force Weather Agency learned that electrical power to their $30 million headquarters facility could be at risk if one of the two base substations went under water.

AFWA's $277 million computing capability pushes out more than 850 Gigabytes of weather data each and every day so a potential loss of power could inhibit this key mission component.

With this information in hand, AFWA's leadership decided that it would be prudent to install temporary portable electrical power to decrease the load on the base's generator plant and to ensure such a scenario was avoided.

"We are looking at a long-term solution, but we needed to do something immediately to ensure our mission requirements continue to be met in case the base does flood," said Lt. Col. Michael Gauthier, 2d Systems Operations Squadron commander, who manages the network systems for AFWA. "We support the warfighter downrange everyday and we cannot afford to let them down."

Working closely with the 55th Wing as the host unit, different options were looked at that would ultimately provide temporary power and an electrical distribution system if standby emergency power was needed.

Based on previous experience, the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron suggested that a Mobile Utilities Support Equipment team should be called in to provide their equipment and expertise.

"It's always a pleasure to work with the Navy MUSE team," said Douglas Wendt, 55th CES exterior electric and power production supervisor. "From planning to implementation, it is exceedingly evident this organization is highly trained, motivated and professional from top to bottom."

Upon request, the Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center quickly sent equipment and a four person MUSE team from Port Hueneme, Calif., to assist. This group of Seabees provided a 3.2 megawatt power plant in conjunction with a 5000 KVA substation.

"We're proud that we've been called in to provide our expertise and knowledge," said Petty Officer Second Class Cole Einhaus, a utilitiesman with the MUSE team.

The Seabees and their equipment arrived here on July 18, and they went to work immediately. They partnered with the 55th CES on installation as well as on all the operational aspects and maintenance concerns while on site.

"We've worked very closely with the civil engineer team here, and we couldn't be happier with how things have gone," said Petty Officer Second Class Jodi-Ann Allen, a construction electrician on the MUSE team. "This entire operation has gone smoothly."

After all the equipment was installed, AFWA temporarily switched to the standby emergency power on July 27 to ensure it would be able to handle the load.

"This helps us verify that the equipment was installed correctly, and that it can handle the power demand," said Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Sanders, a utilitiesman with the MUSE team.

"This test also gives the CE team the opportunity to test drive the equipment if you will," Einhaus said. "We're right there behind them providing oversight, but it's gives them a good chance to gain some experience with it."

This is the second time over the past six months that a MUSE team from Port Hueneme has been to Offutt to provide a helping hand. Back in January the Seabees were called upon to supply 5-megavolt amps of transformation in support of the U.S. Strategic Command headquarters building.

"It did help that our team had been here before," Einhaus said. "We knew where to go, and we knew we were going to get great support from the base."

On both occasions, the MUSE team provided Team Offutt with outstanding service and dedication.

"We're very impressed by the (Seabees) professionalism and by how quickly they provided assistance," Gauthier said.

The 55th CES anticipates that the equipment will remain in place throughout the year.

"The AFWA team is grateful for the incredible support the MUSE team and the 55th CES team have provided," Gauthier said. "Because of this great team effort, we now have a critical capability that will assure uninterrupted support to the warfighter, regardless of what the levees do."