War on Terrorism

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ali Airmen and Iraqi soldiers team up to keep electricity flowing

by Master Sgt. Darrell Habisch
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

5/3/2010 - ALI BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Three Airmen from the 407th Air Expeditionary Group Civil Engineer Squadron Power Production shop traveled to Camp Ur, Iraq, April 19 through 21, to train Iraqi army mechanics on proper procedures for preventative maintenance of four diesel generators providing electrical power to the base.

At Camp Ur, two 1.9 megawatt-producing generators churn out power for Iraqi soldiers whose air conditioners demand more electricity during the summer months when temperatures routinely reach more than 100 degrees.

Keeping the crankshafts turning is a round-the-clock task for 10 Iraqi technicians and two engineers. Although the soldiers are trained diesel mechanics, they are not as well versed as their American counterparts in certain procedures, such as keeping a log book of hours running and mishaps.

Every bit of information the Americans can provide is valuable, said Mr. Maitham, a mechanical engineer trained at a Baghdad University and tasked with keeping the power on.

"We like that the Americans are here to help," said Mr. Maitham while observing an Airman explain to an Iraqi mechanic the importance of the correct mixture of anti-freeze to water.

Two of the 40 foot-long generators are experiencing problems primarily due to lack of proper maintenance schedules, said Tech. Sgt. David Salas, the 407th ECES power production NCO in charge. When they fix one issue, another piece of the generator breaks.

"They can never get ahead," Sergeant Salas said. "They need manuals for these generators in Arabic, and they need an inspection schedule to avoid these problems."

The problems he referred to are a possible seized crankshaft in one generator while another is undergoing critical fluid changes. Power is being produced by a third generator and a new 'stand-by' generator.

Camp Ur is waiting to be connected to the Iraq national power grid to supply its electrical requirements, said Tech. Sgt. Nelson Reyes, a member of the Logistics Military Advisory Team that facilitates training visits by Ali Base Airmen.

"The Iraqis here are desperately waiting to get on the grid," he said. "If another generator goes out, they're going to have real problems."

The generators, new in 2004, are designed to operate for a minimum of 10 years before undergoing a major overhaul, said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Matthews, 407th ECES power production journeyman. "They need it now," he said.

Helping the Iraqis establish methods to best run their power plant is one of the objectives of the coalition training. Maintenance schedules and log books are designed to avoid most major mechanical problems and to keep the electricity flowing.

"We look to see where the gaps are in their procedures," Sergeant Matthews said. "They don't have everything they need. We're here to put more tools in their toolbox."

Money and supplies are a major part of the power production challenge, commented Sergeant Reyes.

Some critical components like anti-freeze are available, but the mechanics "are reluctant to use it not knowing when they will receive more," he said. "They also need new high quality oil to change on a regular basis to keep these generators running at their full capacity."

Switching to the national power grid will give these generators a rest and allow the Iraqi's to get the power plant up to standards, Sergeant Salas said.

"The guys that are keeping them running are doing a great job and are eager to learn," he added.

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