Where has the waste gone?
By Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs / Published July 29, 2013
SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) --
Humans must relieve themselves multiple times throughout the day, but at 20,000 feet in the air in a C-17 Globemaster III where does it all go? Enter the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron fleet services Airmen here.
"What we do is important because people need to be able to use the restroom," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Breski, the 8th EAMS fleet services NCO in charge. "We are the only full-service aerial port in the (U.S. Central Command's) area of responsibility and while what we do may not be glamorous, it's a job that must be done."
Once an aircraft comes to the flightline, it is fleet services Airmen's jobs to dispose of any waste and trash.
The lavatory service truck goes out to the aircraft and attaches a pipe to the plane with what they call the "moose head" for a nozzle. A handle is pulled releasing the waste, which then flows through the pipe and into the truck. These trucks are capable of handling 250 gallons of waste at a time.
"It's a two-person job and you have to be very careful and safe," Breski said. "The worst is when for whatever reason the coupling between the hose and jet isn't hooked up quite right and the waste gets all over you, the truck and the flightline."
Breski said his team of 10, including two NCOs and eight Airmen from four different bases within Air Mobility Command, are split evenly to cover both day and night shifts. The fleet services team hauls an average of 130 gallons of waste and 35 50-gallon bags of trash each day from aircraft that are assigned here or in transit. These aircraft may include everything from KC-135 Stratotankers and C-17s to B-1B Lancers and C-130 Hercules. The next closest fleet services capable base to the AOR is at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
"When we've completely drained a jet, we then clean it out with water and prep the pipes for the next mission with a de-icing agent," Breski said. "We also clean the restrooms and toilets and help the maintainers troubleshoot if one breaks down."
Describing the blue colored water some toilets have, Master Sgt. Kenneth Pettit, the 8th EAMS aircraft services superintendent, describes how this pigmentation can actually save the jet and crew from a very uncomfortable flight.
"You've seen those toilets with the blue water in them, right?" Pettit said. "Because the waste is generally stored on the outermost part of the jet, we have to put anti-freeze in the pipes to prevent them from bursting during flight as temperatures outside at those altitudes can drop well below zero."
Though the job isn't all dirty, Breski added.
"We also stock the jets with coolers of water, toiletries, pillows and blankets, or anything the passengers might need them equipped with," Breski said. "We call these items expendables to keep passengers comfortable. In fleet services we don't get a lot of thanks or handshakes, but it means a lot to me when a jet can take off and the passengers on board have what they need to start doing their mission down range."