Lighting up the runway: 386th ECES maintains flightline

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Crouched on one knee, Staff Sgt. Raul Cancel, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman, works with his team to repair a faulty light on the taxiway. Grabbing a socket wrench from their black toolbox perched on the back of the team’s pickup truck, Cancel suddenly gets a notification from one of his team members.

“Tower called: we need to get off the flightline. Plane’s taking off soon.”

The group of Airmen jump in their truck on the side of the taxiway. While bathing in the frosty air conditioning, a C-17 Globemaster III suddenly soars past the truck from the left, and moments later, an eardrum-bursting sound roars across the bright skies of Kuwait as the hulking aircraft lifts off the tarmac.

Although the sound of the C-17 fills the base, it’s the distinct lighting across the airfield providing the paramount guidance that allows it to execute its mission in the first place.

“We are tasked with maintaining and repairing energized and de-energized electrical distribution systems and its components on (Ali-Al Salem Air Base),” Cancel said. “We also install, maintain and repair interior and exterior electrical systems for facilities on (Ali-Al Salem AB).”

Every day, 386th ECES Airmen meet in the morning to determine roles for the day. Some scatter to the flightline, others push across base. Either way, they fulfill requirements determined by a system that tracks every single airfield light across Ali-Al Salem AB.

“The electrical system’s main goal is to keep power outages close to a minimum, which is a very difficult task with temperatures over 115 degrees Fahrenheit,” Cancel said.

Managing this and other networks are several areas of ECES, all uniting for one common mission, according to Cancel.

“From powering heating, ventilation and air conditioning units to cooling down communication equipment and providing power to (Ali-Al Salem AB) main water pumps, these Airmen come together to give a meaning to the word ‘teamwork,’” Cancel said. “Teamwork and communication is key in our electrical systems career field, in which we are exposed to electrical hazards at any given time.”

This necessity for camaraderie helping Airmen quickly adjust to the deployed environment is why the Air Force began an initiative in late 2017 allowing Airmen to deploy in groups from the same shop.

Cancel and his noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Luis Rosario, have been working together for eight years at the 156th Airlift Wing at Muniz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, and now work side by side at Ali-Al Salem AB.

“It definitely helps having Airmen from my unit with me working in the same sections as well as others in the 386th ECES,” Rosario said. “We have an established camaraderie which makes it easier to communicate and accomplish greater things here at (Ali-Al Salem AB). My hope is for this wingmanship to pass onto other Airmen working with us to become a better and more cohesive unit during our time here and maintain long-lasting professional relationships for years to come.”

The mission for all civil engineer Airmen is to ensure buildings and facilities continue running effectively and maintain combat-readiness. Whether they’re stuck in a building or below the sweltering heat on the flightline, they ensure the mission continues without any obstacles. Without them, there would be nothing lighting the way toward mission success.