F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
If the air conditioner is not working and two missileers are sharing a single-bed room the temperatures can rise quickly. To make matters worse the equipment room nearby puts off continuous heat from the various engines keeping the facility operational. To ensure the temperatures stay in check, the 90th Maintenance Group power refrigeration and electrical shop service brine chillers to keep the cool air flowing.
At F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, one of the critical responsibilities of the PREL shop is to maintain the brine chillers that go out to missile alert facilities. These chillers are essentially the air conditions units found in homes but much bigger however, the old maintenance process utilizes outdated procedures.
With the Air Force continually looking to Airmen for innovative ideas, Staff Sgt. Ben Kimmel, 90th MXG PREL supervisor, is stepping up for Team Warren and developing big ideas.
The brine chillers are critical due to the high temperatures put off by the various equipment in MAFs. Without powerful air conditioners missileers working in the launch control center would not be able to withstand the heat.
“We only know what we are taught,” said Kimmel. “I assumed there was an easier way and in order to learn more about the process and procedures for this job within the civilian world, I turned to YouTube a lot.”
Kimmel’s desire to become more proficient at his job, motivated him was able to learn a better way to service coolant within the brine chiller.
Previously, coolant was processed through a single 1/4 inch tube and took approximately 12 days to flush the old fluid and replace it. Now, four 1/2 inch tubes are used and it cut the total process down to about a half day.
With the support of his supervisor, Master Sgt. Ben Smith, 90th MXG PREL NCO in charge, Kimmel was able to push forward with developing ideas and presenting them to leadership.
“When a project like the brine chillers is taken on there will always be pushback, but I was there to help him,” said Smith. “I was there to help him network, be his hype man and build him up, but also to ensure things were done legally and safely.”
Although the development of using the larger tubes was seemingly fast, there was pushback due to regulations.
“When Airmen develop innovative ideas, there are several requirements to change the process and procedures,” said Kimmel. “It has taken us about a year and a half to get to this point, but we are almost over the final hurdle.”
With the support of 20th Air Force, the new process is in full swing and has already saved the PREL shop many man-hours.
Kimmel noted the new process would save roughly 7,600 working hours annually and thanks to his innovative idea it has sparked a fire within the PREL Airmen to create new ideas.
“I would say if you have an innovation in mind, don’t give up, keep pushing your supervision,” said Kimmel. “If your idea is worthwhile they will eventually buy into it.”