PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia --
The 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron is responsible for ensuring a safe environment for troops deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base to protect the warfighters from the harsh summer heat.
In February 2020, the 378th ECES developed Integrating Cooling Efforts, a program designed to provide relief from the blistering heat and associated complications at Prince Sultan.
“We need to provide escapes and refuge for ourselves and our mission partners who are out operating in the elements day in and out,” said Maj. John Laughrun, 378th ECES operations flight commander. "HVAC, our most recognizable contributor, provides the comfort and equipment cooling throughout Prince Sultan Air Base. The electric, power production, structures, entomology, operations engineering, and WFSM (water and fuels system maintenance) also play large roles in keeping the base as safe and as cool as possible."
One particular element of the ICE program was developing a method to incorporate air conditioning into the large area maintenance shelters in an austere location with limited resources. This solution would increase the ability for Prince Sultan Air Base to support any airframe in the Department of Defense inventory further maintaining its provided depth and deterrence in the region.
“It mitigates risk to aircraft maintainers and their operations as they are keeping the mission moving,” Laughrun said. “It also provides flexibility to the wing commander as LAMS can now be used for force surge bed-downs and operations other than aircraft maintenance if needed to support the Wing's mission of providing depth to the theater, assuring our allies and deterring malign actors.”
When the plan began on installing AC units for the LAMS, the HVAC shop had many different factors to consider.
“The team evaluated war reserve material and commercial solutions, both specific to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States,” Laughrun said. “They recommended host nation specific generator powering the specific A/C units cool each LAMS. By leveraging host-nation specific equipment, we were able to shorten the material acquisition timeline by four to six months.”
Ultimately, their decision to use host nation specification equipment resulted in an improvement in job performance from the maintenance units.
“The difference in temperature has greatly improved job performance,” said SSG Brian Talley 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion NCO in charge of quality control. “It allows for longer periods of work between breaks and prevents diminished performance and exhaustion over long periods of time. It definitely makes any aircraft cooler and safer to work on. There are some tasks, such as working in the tail boom that would be impractical in the midday sun.”
It's no surprise that finding solutions to enhance operations in austere environments may come with a set of challenges.
“The biggest issue we had was material availability on the local economy and the ability of the local economy to support material acquisition through the country-wide COVID-19 driven lockdowns,” Laughrun said.
However, these complications only served as a minor delay in planning process.
“We built it from scratch with the efforts of our craftsmen in the shop putting in a lot of work to take pieces and parts to create a fully functioning cooling system,” Laughrun said. “We relied on locally available electrical and mechanical components and through persistent follow up and engagement with our suppliers, we were able to work to break free the necessary supplies and get the system operational.”
By completing the different tasks within the ICE program, Airmen assigned to the 378th ECES ensure the survivability of Prince Sultan Air Base's assets and its people. They provide safe working conditions to combat the scorching heat and ensure a safe and mission-ready environment.