Air Force Reserve and Active Duty units team up to jump-start Alaska base electrical project

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Matthew Reisdorf
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Watching out for bears and working in between the crazy winters, 60 Airmen from the 934th Civil Engineering Squadron recently traveled here to work on the upgrade of an electrical system at a training site named Camp Mad Bull.

“Camp Mad Bull is highly correlated to the 1980’s identity of the Prime BEEF (Base Engineer Emergency Force) teams of civil engineers,” said Lt. Col. Natalie Chounet, the 773rd Civil Engineering Squadron commander. “The project that the 934 AW civil engineers are helping out with is a high voltage electrical and extension project.”

Prime BEEF training involves a group of engineers providing a full range of support and maintaining a project or site's structural needs, Chounet said. Additionally, this training increases CES readiness in an austere environment priming them for deployments to hostile environments. 

The training that the 934 CES engineers received from the project was invaluable. Due to the unique weather and the location of Camp Mad Bull, there was a training necessity for equipment that the 934 CES engineers don’t regularly use. 

“The training we are getting up here is fantastic,” said Master Sgt. Kyle Sunne, 934 CES electrical supervisor. “We have got young  heavy equipment operators that have not had the opportunity to sit in an excavator and rip open a trench or electrician to stand up a power pole.” 

The work that the 934 CES engineers did served two different functions. Not only will it lay the foundation for future workers at the site, but the experience also enhanced the training for the Airmen to be ready for future battles that may lie ahead. 

“The way the world is shifting right now is to multi-capable Airmen,” Sunne said. “This will benefit them in the long run. It’s taking guys who have not gotten to run heavy equipment or install an overhead system before and teaching them a new skill.”

The 934 CES upgrades on Camp Mad Bull will have a rippling effect benefiting other military branches and opening up more avenues for training.

“Being here at JBER, especially with the nature of how joint bases operate, we will see increased training opportunities not only for the Air Force and Army, but also for any units here,” Chounet said. “This is kind of the premier training area for all of the units in Alaska.”

The 934 CES’ dependable reputation was the reason for this project collaboration. Sunne said a past active duty friend reached out for help from the 934 CES because of their reputation for having outstanding electricians. He asked Sunne if they would be interested in making the over 3000-mile journey, and the rest is history. 

“Everybody was fully supportive of the project,” Sunne said. “Three months later, we took a trip up here to look at the site, and we confirmed that we would love to send our guys up here. To be able to get up here and actually put a shovel in the ground is pretty fantastic.”

The communication flowed smoothly and regularly between the 934 CES and the 773CES, which was the integral reason that the project was able to be completed in an efficient manner. 

“The first learning point that I had with executing this project is you can find ways to have a total force solution integrated to executing the project,” Chounet said. “The communication has been frequent, positive, and everyone is looking to make sure this project is left as a success. Honestly, the collaborations have been great.”

The 934 CES had to consider Alaska’s weather when planning this mission. Alaska has four to five months of habitable construction because of the state's cold weather. This mission consideration will lead to the successful upgrade of the electrical systems at Camp Mad Bull before the 934 CES leave in late September. 

 “The big picture with this project is to provide a training site for JBER,” Sunne said. “The field conditions up here during the winter are perfect for training service members for arctic conditions.”

Even though Alaska may be an icy and dark part of the year, the JBER locale is different from most bases. There is no place in the world that can be compared to it, Chounet said. 

“It’s a unique place that is hard to describe if you haven’t actually experienced it,” she said. “It is a really beautiful state, there are great people here. It’s always interesting to see how the airfield never stops.”