Innovation emerges from earthquake aftermath

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins
  • JBER Public Affairs

Following the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, teams from several different 773d Civil Engineer Squadron shops were sent out to assess damages and respond to damage reports.

During one of these evaluations, Rick Gill, a 773d CES utilities operator, was faced with shutting off a broken water main which distributed water to the Alaska Mission Operations Center.

“It was just an ordinary Friday morning, and most of our units were getting into their morning routines as the earth began to shake,” Gill said. “Not too long after, we got a phone call regarding a water main break. Our first priority was to get out there, stop the leak and immediately start coming up with solutions for getting that building water. We recognized right away a permanent solution was not going to be an option with the long-term cold weather conditions we were in.”

Although a temporary solution was agreed upon, immediate challenges arose with getting the necessary, but expensive, specialty pipe manufactured and delivered in a timely manner.

“The local fabricator told us it would take approximately four to five days to manufacture and deliver the 300-foot section of pipe, and then we would have to assemble it with a cost estimate of $24,000,” Gill said. “While we were waiting on that to go through, I thought to myself, there has to be a faster way to get our people and this building water. After all, I already had the concept and idea of what would be needed. I immediately decided to start calling different distributers in the Anchorage area. We ultimately came up with a plan of building an arctic pipe ourselves using different materials, right away, for only $4,000.”

Due to the innovative thoughts and immediate actions of a handful of Airmen, the Alaska Mission Operations Center not only had water within two days, but there was a cost savings of almost $20,000.

“Military engineers rely on their civilian counterparts for continuity, which is a key component to accomplishing our mission,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua Madison, 773d CES section chief of water and fuels systems maintenance. “Our civilian engineers are technical experts whose knowledge and experience are crucial to the development and training of our Airmen. Additionally, engineers are vital to finding innovative methods which get the mission done in smarter ways, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars. Mr. Gill is a shining example of this, and his expertise has been invaluable to the 773d CES mission.”