SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
When Joint Task Force-Bravo set up operations nearly 25 years ago, the installation was designed to be temporary. Now a quarter of a century later, it's up to the civil engineers here to keep a base designed to be temporary up and running.
The American side of Soto Cano was built with the thought of the infrastructure only lasting five or eight years, not 25. Because the infrastructure wasn't meant to last this long, some of (JTF-Bravo's) structures are in poor shape due to age, weather and termite damage, said Air Force Capt. David Masuck, 612th Air Base Squadron Civil Engineer chief of operations.
One of the biggest challenges the captain faces in maintaining the temporary installation is updating the electrical system.
"The grounding for the electrical wiring is not currently up to standards across the installation," he said. "It's one of our top priorities over the next half year to update the grounding to ensure the safety and mission capability of our residents."
Safety is a priority the civil engineers take seriously. Besides an old electrical system, most of the structures built at Soto Cano are made out of wood.
"Among the biggest problems we face with our structures are termites," Captain Masuck said. "The wood here is not treated and can be damaged fairly quickly by the termites. It's even more significant when it damages a work area as a person could fall through the floor, so we try to fix the problem as quickly as we can."
Unfortunately for the base engineers time is not necessarily on their side to fix all the problems the installation faces.
"Our time and energy has to be focused on ensuring the mission succeeds and fixing safety issues," the captain said. "It's not that we don't want to approve every request that comes in, it's just we do not have the time or money to."
While servicemembers may not have all the nice things he or she may have in the states, it's important for them to remember how much it costs to keep a temporary installation mission capable, said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Carey Casey, 612th ABS CE superintendant.
"We are always trying to become more energy and cost efficient with the improvements we make," Sergeant Casey said. "A little personal responsibility can go along way, like turning out the lights and turning off the air conditioner when you leave for the day."
The civil engineers estimate that $2.7 million a year is spent on the fuel to keep the air conditioners running; besides being an energy drain it also makes them less efficient and break down more often.
"We are trying our best to reduce our maintenance foot print as much as possible," Captain Masuck said. "If we are able to accomplish that, then we can look at other requests servicemembers may have."
Maintaining an installation that wasn't designed to last this long isn't necessarily easy, however the captain said he enjoys the challenge.
"It just takes a little discipline to focus on what's important here," Captain Masuck said. "Because I keep focused on the right things to keep the mission running, I know I am spending our taxpayer's money wisely."