Plumbers keep the flow at Pope AFB

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kris Levasseur
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While most people don't think about how they get their water, it is the mission of every civil engineer plumber to make sure clean water is received, and all water delivery systems are in working order.

Plumbers routinely install, repair and maintain piping, fittings and fixtures involved in the distribution and use of water in a building, but for members of the 43rd Civil Engineer Squadron plumbing flight, it's more than that.

"Really, our job consists of interior plumbing, since a civilian company took over maintenance of the water mains around Pope," said Senior Airman Richard Barraza, a 43rd CES plumber. "In addition to interior plumbing, we also maintain the Pope (Air Force Base) pool, as well as more than 450 back-flow devices set up to prevent contamination of our water supply."

Although keeping water flowing to base facilities is their primary mission, the plumbers also install and repair fixtures, such as faucets and fountains, in every facility on Pope AFB. 

Additionally, they deal with the gas supply, maintaining the systems structure and repairing any damage.

Differing greatly from their mission at home, the deployed environment offers plumbers a whole host of new challenges and opportunities.

"In my opinion, one of the best parts about our job is setting up a deployed location for the first time," said Senior Airman James Founds, a 43rd CES plumber. "Our deployed mission changes depending on where you deploy to. If we end up at a well set-up location, we perform minor maintenance on facilities, but our main focus is running water trucks to various locations to ensure the supply doesn't run out.

"Generally, if we end up at a new or temporary location, our focus is on setting up temporary equipment to satisfy the location's water needs," he said.

Members of the 43rd CES plumbing flight have deployed to locations around the world for various reasons, including supporting existing facilities and building a bases from scratch.

To prepare them for these tasks, Air Force plumbers receive a combination of classroom and on-the-job training.

Recruits selected as Air Force plumbers begin their training during a 47-day basic utilities course at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

"Our training is only nine weeks long, but most of our training is on the job," Airman Barraza said. "The experience I've gained from working with well-trained supervisors has been extremely valuable. Because of what I have learned, I have been able to help keep water flowing to every facility on Pope (AFB)."