EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Alaska’s notoriously cold winters can be hazardous to people, vehicles, and even buildings if the heat goes out for long enough.
Luckily, the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning shop works tirelessly all year to ensure buildings have heat when the temperature starts to plummet.
“Eielson’s mission wouldn’t be possible without heat, so almost everything we do during the winter contributes to keeping the heat on and the mission going,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Auger, a 354th CES HVAC technician.
Though it may seem like a simple task, Master Sgt. Jason Tye, the 354th CES HVAC NCO in charge, says they maintain heating for over 1,100 facilities each year.
“During the summer months we do preventative maintenance on the base’s heating systems so they are ready to go each winter,” said Tye. “Once winter is here, we switch over to emergency maintenance on broken or malfunctioning systems.”
If the systems are broken it can quickly lead to other problems, such as the pipes freezing. The HVAC shop responds quickly to bring the heat back online and are able to provide emergency heating equipment if the job takes too long.
Even the way Eielson heats its buildings provides a challenge for HVAC Airmen who are new to Alaska.
“Most Air Force bases use natural gas and hot water to heat their buildings, but Eielson uses steam,” said Tye. “For this reason there is a small adjustment period where many of our new Airmen have to familiarize themselves with a different way of heating.”
Even through Alaska’s tough climate, the HVAC shop rises to the challenge and brings the heat. Fighting off “Old Man Winter” and keeping Eielson’s Airmen ready to go at 50 below.