Sheppard-trained power pros vital to Iraqi rescue missions

Staff Sgt. Gregory Speed, a 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group Detachment 1 electrician craftsman, removes an air filter from a generator at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq Jan. 8, 2017. This is part of preventive maintenance done  after the generator reaches 250 to 300 hours of running time (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Staff Sgt. Gregory Speed, a Detachment 1, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group electrician craftsman, removes an air filter from a generator at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 8, 2017. This is part of preventive maintenance done after the generator reaches 250 to 300 hours of running time (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Staff Sgt. Gregory Speed, a 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group Detachment 1 electrician craftsman, exits a generator at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq Jan. 8, 2017. Preventive maintenance on these generators can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to finish. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Staff Sgt. Gregory Speed, a Detachment 1, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group electrician craftsman, exits a generator at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 8, 2017. Preventive maintenance on these generators can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to finish. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Imagine a work day without electricity; not being able to send emails or use radars; living in a tent with no heat or air conditioning. Luckily, this isn’t a reality for most bases, thanks largely to the Airmen--trained at Sheppard AFB--who maintain the electrical systems. At forward-deployed locations such as Al Asad Air Base, it’s a bit more complicated since they rely on generators to produce most of their power.

“I was told when I first got in that ‘nobody will know you exist until something happens, so prepare to be living in the shadows,’” said Staff Sgt. Abraham Wanner, a Detachment 1, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group power production craftsman. “And that’s essentially what we do. If we’re not providing prime power then we’re there just in case we do lose prime power.”

If they were to lose power, it would be a big deal. The power production team’s primary mission at Al Asad AB is to provide power to the 66th Rescue Squadron, which manages combat search and rescue forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Powering the squadron requires two prime-power generators and approximately 10 smaller convenience generators that serve as backups in case the prime-power generators fail.

The squadron relies on these generators for a myriad of mission-critical items – everything from communication for commanders to lighting for maintainers.

To prevent the squadron from losing power, Wanner and his team conduct preventive maintenance on these generators to ensure they remain in tip-top shape and perform at their best. “Not unlike a family sedan or pickup truck, these checks are done at specific points in the lifecycle of the machine,” Wanner said.

Since the detachment and the squadron operate out of an austere location, they must find ways of doing more with less. This includes incorporating members of other career fields to help perform highly important preventive maintenance, which can be time consuming even with two people.

“It’s an hour and a half to two hour job,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Speed, a Detachment 1, 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group electrician craftsman. “I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s probably my fifth or sixth time doing them with the very first time being out here. I’m stepping outside my career field a little bit, so it’s been an eye opener.”

In the case of the generator, these checks are done anywhere between 250 to 300 hours of running time, Wanner said. The preventive maintenance on these generators includes changing the oil; replacing fuel, oil and air filters; and inspecting the engine for any leaks, loose hoses or burnt wiring.

“Once we pass it on, if we don’t document or inspect these things, then the next person might not be able to catch onto it,” Wanner said. “So at least if it’s documented and visualized by us then they can be more prepared. It’s all about setting someone else up for success.”