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CEMIRT increases productivity despite hurricane direct hit

  • Published
  • By David Ford
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The damage unleashed when Hurricane Michael struck Tyndall AFB in October 2018 hasn’t deterred the Civil Engineer Maintenance Inspection and Repair Team from delivering the installation support the Air Force expects. In fact, despite damaged homes, displaced families and disrupted lives, the CEMIRT team is exceeding expectations. 

“Despite our facility damage and reduced space, we’re actually up 66% in production from last year,” said Jeremy Gutierrez, CEMIRT division chief. 

The CEMIRT team supports installations across the Air Force with a suite of civil engineering-associated maintenance and repair capabilities, including electrical systems and mechanical systems; power production; aircraft arresting systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Based at Tyndall, the team is part of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC). 

Like most of the Tyndall population, the CEMIRT team evacuated before the Category 5 storm struck the Florida Panhandle. On Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, less than 24 hours after the storm, Eric Brien, CEMIRT powered support systems mechanic, returned home to what would become a common tale in Bay County: devastation. 

“I came home to find a tree in my roof, kitchen and bedrooms destroyed,” said Brien. “At this point, I figured it couldn’t get worse. I interfaced with the team on Friday, ready to assist with whatever was next. I was ready to be working at the base, regardless of the requirement. Looking back, it was a great showcase of teamwork and expertise, doing what CEMIRT does best.”

The prolific performance of CEMIRT in 2019 began with its resiliency in the moments directly following the departure of Hurricane Michael. CEMIRT personnel provided support for nine days until the base power grid was restored – working closely with Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC) to make sure its equipment was disconnected prior to their personnel energizing the base. 

During those first nine days post-hurricane, CEMIRT provided a total of 3.4 megawatts of power to Tyndall AFB. 

“In all, it was hectic, crazy and realistically a lot of fun,” said Grant Kincaid, power production foreman. “CEMIRT was able to showcase its capabilities in the event of a natural disaster. We learned a lot of things that can make us better for the future, and how we can support other bases.”

Not only did CEMIRT excel in a time of desperate need to lead the way in getting power back up and running at Tyndall AFB, it managed to increase production in its usual day-to-day activities. For example, despite working out of damaged facilities and with reduced manpower, CEMIRT’s Aircraft Arresting Systems (AAS) team completed 26 system overhauls and upgrades in seven months since Hurricane Michael.

  • The AAS team overhauls and upgrades an average 30 Barrier Arresting Kit-12 machines annually. These kits stop aircraft from overshooting runways, and cost approximately $200,000 each. By repairing them, CEMIRT saves the Air Force nearly $3.8 million annually. 
  • The electrical support team also overcame a 35% reduction in staff to execute 67 requirements at 11 installations since the hurricane, maintaining the typical Fiscal Year (FY) workload in an eight-month timeframe. 
  • The power production division increased production 25%, executing 48 service calls at 16 installations with about three-quarters of the normal staffing. 

Gutierrez explained a lot of work has gone into overhauling fire pumps, the diesel-driven engine on the end of a fire deluge pump typically used for hangar fire suppression systems. 

Kincaid said they recently inspected a fire pump at Robins AFB, Georgia that exhibited overheated and melted pistons inside the pump when tested.  

“The team brought the engine back from Robins to here at Tyndall and did a ground-up overhaul in-house for about $5,500 versus about $45,000 for a brand new engine,” said Kincaid. 

After resolving all of the fire pump and engine issues, Kincaid’s team switched gears and locations. The team performed load bank testing at 21 facilities, including one at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. 

The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning section specializes in Commissioning, Recommissioning and Retro-commissioning of facilities, as well as design reviews and assessing existing HVAC systems. Commissioning ensures a new building’s mechanical systems is designed and installed for optimal performance. Recommissioning involves resetting control parameters, cleaning and replacing parts to restore optimal performance on existing buildings, while retro-commissioning improves the efficiency of an existing building’s equipment and system. 

The HVAC section executed nine requirements at nine locations, six of which involved recommissioning. These projects involved multiple stateside locations as well as locations in Europe, Japan and Korea. In addition, CEMIRT’s HVAC experts evaluated mechanical systems at 67 buildings on Tyndall post-Hurricane Michael.

For more information on how the repair, reshape and rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base is progressing, go to the following link