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OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE -- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Binon, a lead electrician with a Mobile Utilities Support Equipment team out of Port Hueneme, Calif. , inspects the cables of a 2,500 KVA electrical substation outside the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command here. The MUSE team recently installed two substations for the building after a water main broke outside the facility Dec. 20, which caused electrical issues after water flooded the boiler room. U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger (released)
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- When a broken water main flooded the boiler room of the U.S. Strategic Command headquarters building here on Dec. 20, it caused quite a few electrical, cooling, heating and potable water issues for the 50-plus-year-old facility.
While the command remained fully mission capable throughout the ordeal, the 55th Wing, as the host unit, was forced to look at alternative means of powering portions of the building.
In the short term, the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron supported the needs by renting mobile commercial power units. However, with a long-term fix potentially months away, equipment reliability and rental costs quickly became a concern.
In response, the 55th CES reached out to the Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center to see what support they could provide to the facility.
"The initial contact was to request mobile substations that would enable (us) to restore power to existing chillers and boilers," said Douglas Wendt, 55th CES exterior electric and power production supervisor. "The request expanded when it was found (they) had sufficient equipment on hand to power the existing equipment and the rental equipment. "
NFELC responded to the request by sending a four-person Mobile Utilities Support Equipment team, or MUSE team, to assist from Port Hueneme, Calif. This group of Seabees and their equipment supplied transformation for the support of 5 megavolt-amps of power to USSTRATCOM.
"They wanted our support because we use existing shore power and our transformation is a lot more stable than what they were using," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Binon, lead electrician with the MUSE team. "It's not going to run out of fuel, and its going to be good for as long as they need it. It's set up almost as if it never happened, except the equipment is out on the yard. "
The team got the initial request for support on Dec. 27 and immediately got the equipment and unit prepped. Within two weeks the transformers and switching assets were shipped, on the ground here, and ready to go.
"This is the quickest we've ever had to respond to get something out, short of a contingency like Hurricane Katrina," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Kain, a utilitiesman and the mission's nonofficer-in-charge with the MUSE team. "And we would have been out here sooner if it wasn't for the New Year's holiday. "
The MUSE team arrived on Jan. 5 and quickly installed two mobile 2,500 KVA electrical substations. Because the equipment will remain in place until it is no longer needed, the team also provided training to the 55th CES.
"The civil engineers here were already pretty familiar with the equipment, so we just had to provide the basic ins and outs," Petty Officer Binon said. "In addition, we always have 24-hour support available. If there's ever an issue, they can always call us and someone will answer their question. "
"The equipment is very similar to stationary transformers and switchgear," Mr. Wendt said. "CE high-voltage electricians are well-qualified to maintain the MUSE substations (and) it should take about 4 man-hours per week to inspect and maintain the substations. "
Typically, a MUSE team assists naval customers with public works issues such as providing support to a building or utility, so the opportunity to work with the Air Force and help a combatant command was out of the ordinary in this case.
"It's definitely a new experience," Petty Officer Binon said. "We've never done anything quite to this scale, where as if they didn't get (the support), bad things could happen. ""It's definitely a notch in the belt," he added.
The MUSE team was impressed by the level of base support provided here and how smoothly the entire operation went.
"With as fast as this button was pushed, to get this equipment here, I was surprised to see how prepared they were for us," Petty Officer Kain said. "They were ahead of the game, had everything lined up and it was amazing. "
"The support was spectacular," Petty Officer Binon said. "Absolutely the best experience we've had as far as support goes. "
"The 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron was instrumental in coordinating speedy transport of the MUSE substations," Mr. Wendt said. "I am extremely impressed with the MUSE team's response and all the Navy and Air Force personnel, both military and civilian, involved in making this happen. "
By utilizing the MUSE team and their equipment, Offutt saved roughly $784,000 in rental costs and $763,000 in fuel costs for a grand total of more than $1.5 million.
The 55th CES anticipates that the equipment will remain in place through mid-2011.