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What’s that smell? Water, Fuel flight keeps Little Rock fresh

A male is pictured in front of a line of red pipes indoors.

Airman 1st Class Jacob Ballew, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuel Systems journeyman, maintains systems moving more than 500 thousand gallons of water daily through 56 miles of underground pipes Feb. 2, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The Water and Fuel flight is comprised of 17 service members and six civilians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

A male is pictured holding a circular lift station pump outdoors.

An Airmen from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuel Systems flight cleans a lift station pump Feb. 2, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The team is in charge of a variety of necessities including maintaining the natural gas distribution center, sprinklers and other components relating to safety of personnel and equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

A male is pictured working on red pipes is an indoor building.

Airman 1st Class Jacob Ballew, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuel Systems journeymen, inspects a fire suppression system Feb. 2, 2018 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The Water and Fuel flight stays updated on training in order to maintain both the water and fuel systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

Two males are pictured working on a sewage system with a hose outdoors.

Airmen from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuel Systems flight unclogs a lift station Feb. 2, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Lift stations are used to prevent waste from returning to its source. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Little Rock Air Force Base is home to Agile Combat Airlift. Although the ground may be what C130’s land on, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” too.

Airmen from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuel Systems flight maintain systems moving more than 500 thousand gallons of water daily through 56 miles of underground pipes enabling base personnel to shower and hydrate, while also up keeping separate pipes dedicated to fuel.

The team of 17 service members and six civilian Airmen are in charge of a variety of necessities including maintaining the natural gas distribution center, sprinklers and other components relating to safety of personnel and equipment.

Because of this, the water in Water and Fuel stands for many things from checking the chlorine levels in the base pool to providing water for fire hydrants, but its main component is a little smelly.

“We’re in charge of the sewage systems on base,” said Airman 1st Class Jacob Ballew, 19th CES Water and Fuel Systems journeymen. “Anything that flushes or pumps water is our responsibility.”

Anytime a toilet or similar component on the operational side of the base gets clogged, it’s the flights job to restore flow.

“It’s a dirty job, but the people make it worth it,” Ballew said. “Sometimes things go as planned, sometimes they go awry really fast. We have to rely on each other.”

The team performs daily checks on all their responsibilities, especially lift stations which are used to prevent waste from returning to its source.

“Poop doesn’t flow up hill,” Ballew said. “We want to keep it that way.”

The job demands the team be versatile, knowing both the fuel and water tools of the trade while keeping up to standards. Before any of them can take the plunge, training and safety precautions must take place.

“We learn by doing,” Ballew said. “There are lots of aspects we have to learn by being mentored on the job.”

The Airmen train to be knowledgeable in both the systems and measures to take to be safe while on duty.

“Safety comes down to the little things, like washing your hands and wearing rubber gloves or being updated on immunizations and respirator training,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Lepe, 19th CES Water and Fuel Systems maintenance supervisor. “Being mindful of what we’re doing regarding safety as well as training is key, especially when dealing with water and electricity."

 According to the Airmen, they attribute much of their success to the civilians on their team, depending on them for knowledge on all avenues of the mission.

“People are the most important aspect of Combat Airlift,” Ballew said. “Without them, planes don’t get flown. Personnel need hydration and clean facilities and planes need fuel. I would like to think that’s a major part of Combat Airlift.”
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