Plumbers keep base pipes unclogged

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Many people on base wake up to a warm shower, a drip-free faucet and a toilet that flushes properly. In fact, most probably don't think about their water until something goes wrong.

"People take plumbing for granted until there's a problem," said Curtis Hester, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel system foreman.

Whether it's a shower spitting out freezing water or that annoying drip that keeps someone up at night, the 341st CES WFSM shop can help.

Currently there are 17 Airmen, both military and civilians, assigned to the water and fuel maintenance shop.

The water system maintainers are tasked with maintaining 137 miles of interior and exterior water and natural gas systems across 1,604 facilities on base and the missile field, valued at $3.5 billion.

Their duties include inspecting, maintaining and repairing 500 manholes and 47 miles of sanitary sewer infrastructure, six sewage lift stations, 507 fire hydrants and 800 backflow prevention devices.

Hester said it's the maintainer's job to perform preventative maintenance so they can reduce the downtime for repairs that may cause breaks in pipes, leaks and spills.

The liquid fuel system maintainers uphold all fuel systems for vehicles and generators that supply stand-by electricity for the base, missile alert facilities and missile sites. They maintain 257 small capacity storage tanks that require monthly monitoring and general maintenance.

The WFSM craftsmen don't just specialize in water or fuels; they have to be specialists in multiple systems.

"Due to today's budget cuts and other factors, we are expected to be experts on all utilities systems," Hester said. "Our civilian counterparts have the luxury of being specialized in only one façade of a system, whether a plumbing, fire, water/sewer, fuels or monitoring.

"It's a challenge for today's Airman to keep pace with the vast changes and environmental regulations that we have to comply with," he continued. "I'm confident that when called upon, my shop will be able to support the mission in any task they are faced with."

It may not be a glamorous job, but it is an important one, Hester said.

"We are unsung heroes," he added. "We supply water for showers, latrines and kitchens. To me, it's a morale thing, especially in the contingency environment."

While washing your face and brushing your teeth before bed, keep in mind that without the effort from the WFSM shop, one twist of the faucet could mean the difference between cool clean water or a single drip in the sink.