Malmstrom's unsung heroes of comfort

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Most people don't pay attention to who is responsible for keeping their work environment, and sometimes living environment, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is usually only noticed when a vital piece of equipment fails to perform that Airmen of the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron heating ventilation and air conditioning shop become the center of attention.

On Sept. 20, these Airmen stole the lime light when they were called to install two miniature split HVAC systems in the Malmstrom Air Force Base heating plant.

"I enjoy the job," said Airman 1st Class Matthew Yordt, 341st CES HVAC technician. "It gives me a chance to work with my hands and it also feels good to finish a project and see the final product. I get a sense of accomplishment when I fix something."

The amount of work the HVAC shop does on a daily basis rivals the operations of some much larger businesses, and they have the statistics to prove it. During the summer and winter months, it is common for the shop to service 80 to 100 work orders per week while also dedicating nearly 200 man-hours weekly for preventative maintenance alone.

"It can be hectic at times," said Airman 1st Class Trent McBrayer, 341st CES HVAC technician. "We work around the clock to keep the facilities on Malmstrom running at 100 percent. Some jobs can take longer than others but we do our best to finish every one of them in a timely manner and make sure the job is done well."

The Malmstrom HVAC shop is in charge of servicing a total of 269 air conditioning units, 54 boilers and more than 20 miles of high-temperature hot water lines for 156 facilities; that totals more than 2.7 million square feet of infrastructure being attended to on a daily basis.

"Even with the workload the shop is tasked to manage, we find the time to accomplish everything we need to do," Yordt said. "The Airmen I work with every day are great at what they do. We train hard so when a difficult job comes up, we know what's needed to fix the problem and we always try to keep safety in mind.

"People appreciate a job well done and it's easy to see the impact it makes on a person when they thank you for the work you did to make their life a little more comfortable," Yordt said. "It may not be the most glamorous thing to do in the military but it definitely makes a difference."

The Airmen of the 341st CES HVAC shop train for nearly six months in technical school before starting their careers on Malmstrom. The mission they are tasked with directly supports Airmen on every part of the base, which, in turn, directly supports Malmstrom's nuclear mission.

Keeping up with the workload on base is challenging enough, but the Airmen of the 341st CES HVAC shop accomplish this task with nearly half their crew.
These Airmen also support the Air Force's mission overseas. In the desert, keeping cool is important to everyone and without the trained personnel who know what is required to maintain, fix and run heating and cooling units of all kinds the productivity of everyone would fall drastically.

"Overtime work just comes with the territory," McBrayer said. "We have a rotating list that is passed around the shop, so one person is always available in case something comes up. There is also a secondary backup if a job is too big to handle for one person. No matter what it takes, we get the job done."