Working around the clock: 8 CES HVAC keeps things cool
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- With the increasing temperatures of the Korean summer, comes a high demand on the technicians of the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration shop, commonly abbreviated as HVAC.
Responsible for helping the base stay cool, the team installs, maintains, repairs and operates both heating and cooling systems across Kunsan AB. The 19-person shop, consisting of 12 active-duty personnel and seven civilian employees, remains heavily tasked throughout the year, sometimes working 12-hour shifts for a month at a time.
"These dudes are awesome," said Master Sgt. Ramon Gunderson, 8th CES HVAC NCO in charge. "In the last month while we were working twelves, they completed 314 [work orders], 250 hours of [reoccurring work projects] and they all did it with positive attitudes and 952 hours of overtime."
Regardless of an increased workload, they continue to provide the cooling that keeps the Wolf Pack mission rolling.
"We touch the lives of every single person on base, whether it's comfort cooling in the dorms or critical equipment cooling for the mission," said Gunderson. "No matter what anybody's job is, we're going to affect them in one way or another."
When that cooling ceases to work, the base's HVAC technicians are called upon to find a solution. Around the base, two-man teams respond to work orders, or DSWs, submitted by customers, the most common of which regard malfunctions in air conditioning or water heat.
These work orders are broken down into four categories based on the importance and nature of the work needed.
"For regular DSWs it'll go emergency, RWP, urgent and then routine," said Gunderson. "Emergencies are mission critical; it has to be on the critical facilities list and no doubt affect the mission. RWP is our reoccurring work, our maintenance program. It's what the night shift does by making sure our systems are good ... If we don't do that type of stuff, the equipment just breaks."
Following emergency and reoccurring work are the urgent and routine cases. Urgent cases are assessed by priority and the nature of the malfunction. They are typically resolved within seven duty days, after which it may become a routine case or be closed altogether.
For the teams responding to these cases, the shifts are typically eight hours in length, but can go upwards of 12 hours. During the winter, and just this past June, it became necessary for the HVAC shop to work 12-hour shifts routinely, in an effort to keep up with an increasing work load.
The increase in shift time is part of the response to two issues that routinely effect HVAC, the first being manpower and the second being sourcing materials for repairs and maintenance.
"The two biggest challenges we've had are manpower issues, and part of that is just due to the manpower gaps you have between inbounds and outbounds," said Gunderson. "The second thing is the long lead times for material, because we have to get a lot of things from the States. It can take 60 to 90 days for us to get something that could be very basic."
In the case of emergencies, 60 to 90 days can be far too long to wait.
"If it's a critical facility, we try to expedite and get the part air-freighted here," added Gunderson. "The other thing we do it is try to give customers some heads up and let them know 'hey this is what's going on.' We try to put in the parts as soon as they get here; we try to take care of what we can, when we can."
In the case of manning, support has been requested from Pacific Air Forces, which in turn has sourced out to other bases for additional technicians. In an effort to prepare for the next fiscal year, reservists have been requested during the summer to help back-fill the shop. For now, the crews here continue to do what they can to support the base.
Working around the clock, the 8th CES HVAC shop remains busy throughout the year to meet the Wolf Pack's needs. If there is a loss of air-conditioning, and there will be from time to time, all they ask is that customers keep their cool.
"We'll get to you, it's just a matter of time," added Gunderson. "Just please be patient with us. These guys are working as hard as they can."