Civil Engineers keep it cool at Nigerien Air Base 101

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

At the hottest time of the year temperatures in Niger can reach 110 F, and during the coolest time the temperatures still raise to roughly 88 F.


It’s the job of two Civil Engineer Airmen deployed to the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niger, to keep their wingmen cool and comfortable.


Staff Sgt. Julian Johnson, 768th EABS NCO in charge of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and Staff Sgt. Robert Segler, 768th EABS HVAC craftsman, work together to cover the 120 HVAC units and 6 cold storage units on base.


“One of the tasks we are doing now is our periodic maintenance intervals,” said Johnson. “Twice a month we spend a week cleaning and performing necessary maintenance to all the HVAC units on base. On any given day during those weeks we can work on 15 to 20 or so units a day.”


As HVAC technicians Johnson and Segler may not get to enjoy the cool air much as one might think because they are usually outside working on them.


“The average life span of the HVAC units is 5-8 years, but the environment here takes a toll on them,” said Johnson. “The units run 24/7 and with the heat, sand, and humidity, they tend to break down a little quicker. Sometimes the breakdowns are minor such as loose wires or broken switches, other times the unit is beyond repair.”


The units that aren’t repairable are then repurposed for parts that keep the other units working longer and potentially saving the Air Force from replacing multiple $15,000 units.


“One of the biggest challenges we face is that we don’t have the parts and equipment we may have at a more permanent location,” said Johnson. “When it comes to ordering parts and supplies it could take months to get here, so it’s hard to know what we’d need in time.”


While the HVAC technicians continue to beat the heat by working hard to keep the air conditioning running, another important aspect of their job is the upkeep to the cold storage units that hold the food for the dining facility.


“We have a smaller role with the cold storage units because they’re more resilient to the environment,” said Segler. “We occasionally spray them down and clear out the sand build-up to keep them running smoothly while they’re here, but they eventually rotate out.”


“If (these guys) didn’t play their part, HVAC and cold storage units would break down due to the sand and harsh climate,” said Capt. Kirk Hull, 768th EABS Civil Engineer Flight commander. “Without the maintenance they perform this would be a very uncomfortable place to be.”


Whereas Airmen would still accomplish the mission without air conditioning, the positive effects of having it aren’t lost with Johnson.


“I know my job is important,” said Johnson. “At the end of the day I help people stay comfortable and relaxed in a stressful environment, and that’s meaningful to me.”