KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- "Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series designed to highlight innovative efforts, large and small, that are improving infrastructure at Kunsan Air Base. These both save the Air Force money and improve mission readiness for generations of Airmen to come. "
From the largest bases to the most remote forward operating locations, electricity is key to everything the Air Force does. The holders of this key are Electrical Power Production Airmen.
The power production team, often called “PowerPro”, falls under the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Two primary responsibilities of this team is to maintain mission effectiveness and readiness of emergency electrical power in the event the electrical grid goes down, and to ensure aircraft can land safely in the event of an in-flight emergency.
One section of PowerPro is specifically dedicated to maintaining and operating backup generators across base, many of which are state-of-the-art diesel generators capable of providing power for several days without needing to be refueled.
“My team supports the mission in times of emergency,” said Master Sgt. Travis Rolstad, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron power production section chief. “We maintain and operate several emergency backup power systems across the base that provide us with the means to operate and execute the mission.”
Kunsan Air Base has over $1 billion in emergency generator systems ranging from a few hundred kilowatts up to several megawatts that keep the mission going, even in austere conditions. While the generators support the entire 8th Fighter Wing mission, the majority of the support goes toward medical and security forces operations to ensure the sustainability of emergency responders during crisis or power outages.
Another aspect of PowerPro’s mission is barrier maintenance. These are not your traditional barriers; they maintain and operate the Barrier Arresting Kit 12, also referred to as BAK-12.
“Our system provides a ‘safety net’ for our fighter aircraft during an in-flight emergency,” said Rolstad. Kunsan F-16s are equipped with a tail hook, which has the ability to engage system cables that span the width of the runway. In an emergency landing scenario, the pilot can drop the jet’s tail hook, engage the cable, and come safely to a halt.
These systems require tremendous attention to detail from the crews that maintain them. Each day, barrier maintenance Airmen perform routine checks to make sure the BAK-12s on the flight line are in good working order. This critical function ensures the highest level of safety and mission readiness at all times and allows Wolf Pack pilots to fly with confidence knowing that PowerPro does their job with high accuracy and reliability.
Tech. Sgt Denton Bielinski, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron barrier maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge, said that for this section of PowerPro, shifts start early, even before the pilots have begun operations and Airmen are always ready to respond if needed.
“Every single day, even holidays, we run checklist making sure everything is good to go,” said Bielinski. “We also keep Airmen on standby just in case the system is used, because it’s our job to reset the system as fast as possible.”
Due to the small size of the Power Production shop and the two distinct sections that service the electrical grid and the BAK-12s, it is an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere where everyone must be extremely competent and able to execute their duties with precision. It takes a team effort to maintain the high standards and quality of maintenance on a daily basis.
“Everything we do has a major impact on the entire base’s operations,” said Rolstad. “Without power all we have are bombs and bullets!”