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Lighting up the runway: 386th ECES maintains flight line

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with Airman Nicholas Lee, 386th ECES electrical systems journeyman, and a contractor while replacing a solar-powered taxiway light at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The most common reasons lights require replacing are getting hit by an object and burning out over time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with Airman Nicholas Lee, 386th ECES electrical systems journeyman, and a contractor while replacing a solar-powered taxiway light at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The most common reasons lights require replacing are getting hit by an object and burning out over time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and contractors check on the base electrical grid at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2019. In order to find what lights need work across the base, 386th ECES workers use a system that tracks every light on the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and contractors check on the base electrical grid at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2019. In order to find what lights need work across the base, 386th ECES workers use a system that tracks every light on the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron hold a group meeting before starting the work day at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 13, 2019. The shop uses their group meetings to divide work among the Airmen and set guidelines for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron hold a group meeting before starting the work day at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 13, 2019. The shop uses their group meetings to divide work among the Airmen and set guidelines for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

A contractor with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron replaces a solar-powered taxiway light at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure buildings and facilities continue to run effectively and maintain combat-readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

A contractor with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron replaces a solar-powered taxiway light at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure buildings and facilities continue to run effectively and maintain combat-readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

A C-17 Globemaster III takes off from Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron may work on the flightline at any time, requiring them to constantly communicate with other base personnel to ensure safety while executing the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

A C-17 Globemaster III takes off from Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron may work on the flightline at any time, requiring them to constantly communicate with other base personnel to ensure safety while executing the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Members from the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron pick out tools for a maintenance job at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure all buildings and facilities continue to run effectively and maintain combat-readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Members from the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron pick out tools for a maintenance job at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure all buildings and facilities continue to run effectively and maintain combat-readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airman Nicholas Lee, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems journeyman, works with a contractor on identifying the electrical issues on the flightline at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. In order to find what lights need work across the base, 386th ECES workers use a system that tracks every light on the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Airman Nicholas Lee, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems journeyman, works with a contractor on identifying the electrical issues on the flightline at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. In order to find what lights need work across the base, 386th ECES workers use a system that tracks every light on the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, and a contractor retrieve inventory items at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. After identifying issues with the lighting on the flightline, Cancel and his shop stocked up on items before setting out to the work sites. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, and a contractor retrieve inventory items at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. After identifying issues with the lighting on the flightline, Cancel and his shop stocked up on items before setting out to the work sites. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with other members of his shop to repair and replace solar-powered taxiway lights at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. Cancel deployed with a handful of other Airmen from his Air National Guard unit in Puerto Rico. The Air Force began deploying Airmen in groups in late 2017 to ensure a mixture of experienced and new Airmen would arrive at a location down range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with other members of his shop to repair and replace solar-powered taxiway lights at Ali-Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Aug. 14, 2019. Cancel deployed with a handful of other Airmen from his Air National Guard unit in Puerto Rico. The Air Force began deploying Airmen in groups in late 2017 to ensure a mixture of experienced and new Airmen would arrive at a location down range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --

Crouched on one knee, Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with his team to repair a faulty light on the taxiway. Grabbing a socket wrench from their black toolbox perched on the back of the team’s pick-up truck, Cancel suddenly gets a notification from one of his team members.

“Tower called: we need to get off the flight line. Plane’s taking off soon.”

The group of Airmen jump in their truck on the side of the taxiway. While bathing in the frosty air conditioning, a C-17 Globemaster III suddenly soars past the truck from the left, and moments later, an eardrum-bursting sound roars across the bright skies of Kuwait as the hulking aircraft lifts off the tarmac.

Although the sound of the C-17 fills the base, it’s the distinct lighting across the airfield providing the paramount guidance that allows it to execute its mission in the first place.

“We are tasked with maintaining and repairing energized and de-energized electrical distribution systems and its components on ASAB,” Cancel said. “We also install, maintain, and repair interior and exterior electrical systems for facilities on ASAB.”

Every day, 386th ECES Airmen meet in the morning to determine roles for the day. Some scatter to the flight line, others push across base. Either way, they fulfill requirements determined by a system that tracks every single airfield light across ASAB.

“The electrical system’s main goal is to keep power outages close to a minimum, which is a very difficult task with temperatures over 115 degrees Fahrenheit,” Cancel said.

Managing this and other networks are several areas of ECES, all uniting for one common mission, according to Cancel.

“From powering Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition units to cooling down communication equipment, and providing power to ASAB’s main water pumps, these Airmen come together to give a meaning to the word ‘teamwork,’” Cancel said. “Teamwork and communication is key in our electrical systems career field, in which we are exposed to electrical hazards at any given time.”

This necessity for camaraderie helping Airmen quickly adjust to the deployed environment is why the Air Force began an initiative late 2017 that allowed Airmen to deploy in groups from the same shop.

Cancel and his NCO-in-charge, Master Sgt. Luis Rosario, have been working together for eight years at the 156th Airlift Wing at Muniz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, and now work side-by-side here.

“It definitely helps having Airmen from my unit with me working in the same sections as well as others in the 386th ECES,” Rosario said. “We have an established camaraderie which makes it easier to communicate and accomplish greater things here at ASAB. My hope is for this wingmanship to pass onto other Airmen working with us to become a better and more cohesive unit during our time here and maintain long-lasting professional relationships for years to come.”

The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure buildings and facilities continue running effectively and maintain combat-readiness. Whether they’re stuck in a building or below the sweltering heat on the flight line, they ensure the mission continues without any obstacles. Without them, there would be nothing lighting the way toward mission success.