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News | Dec. 21, 2020

AEDC Base Civil Engineering Branch vital to mission success at Arnold AFB

By Jill Pickett AEDC/PA

From mowing grass to operating test utility systems, the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Civil Engineering Branch, or TSDC, ensures the readiness of the grounds, facilities and utility systems at Arnold Air Force Base, headquarters of AEDC.

“The Test Support Division’s Civil Engineering Branch provides a wide variety of capabilities and services that directly support every person, every organization and every test capability on Arnold AFB,” said John Laviolette, TSDC chief. “Many of these services are foundational to successfully accomplishing the installation’s test mission.”

A team of DOD and contractor personnel work together to sustain, restore and modernize facilities and transportation systems. They also operate the test utility systems, enabling their fellow members of Team AEDC to execute a critical national defense mission. And, if something should go wrong, the Branch is tasked with providing emergency response.

Four sections – the Engineering Section, the Operations Section, the Installation Management Section and the Emergency Management Section – comprise the Base Civil Engineering Branch.

The Engineering Section has cradle-to-grave oversight of the design and construction of all test utilities, and the sustainment, restoration and modernization of buildings.

“Our projects support all test capabilities, as well as mission support functions across the installation,” said Jon Paul Wallace, chief of the Section.

These projects range in scale from concrete slabs and roof replacements to renovation of an entire facility. Recently, the team oversaw improvements at the Main Gate and the Visitor Control Center. They also were responsible for comprehensive renovations for the Base Civil Engineer Building and the Water Treatment Plant.

“These renovations greatly enhanced the quality of life for personnel working in these facilities, as well as the operations,” Wallace said.

The team also has a suite of contract vehicles that has increased the efficiency of the procurement process, significantly reducing the time required to award construction contracts and advance the AEDC mission.

The Operations Section is responsible for operation and maintenance of the utility systems on base, and maintenance of buildings and grounds.

The utility systems include the traditional systems which provide the basic utility services to the personnel on base similar to a public utility company, such as potable water treatment, sewage collection and treatment, and electrical distribution. The team also operates and maintains non-traditional utility systems in support of the test mission, such as test power, cooling water, petroleum fuel and nitrogen.

“All of our utilities are critical to accomplishing the mission,” said Joshua Cooke, a senior utility manager.

The testing mission at Arnold AFB creates a high demand for utility support.

Daily electrical power requirements can at times equal that of a city the size of Chattanooga. To meet this demand, system engineers and operators maintain communication with the power provider, Tennessee Valley Authority.

Running engines for testing requires fuel and the infrastructure to store and deliver it to the test cells. The Operations Section is capable of pumping more than 100,000 gallons of jet fuel each day. Fuels managers coordinate fuel delivery with the Defense Logistics Agency.

“We also have one of the most complex industrial cooling water systems in the world,” Cooke said.

The Section has the capability of flowing up to 600 million gallons of cooling water through the pumping station in a day. The Woods Reservoir is the source of the water. The Section operates the Elk River Dam to manage the reservoir.

“The Utility program that we have here is very unique and very large,” Cooke said. “That’s why we’re very fortunate to have a team of professionals that have a wealth of knowledge and work hard. We need that every day to continue to support our mission.”

The Installation Management Section is responsible for ensuring Arnold AFB is in compliance with all state and federal regulations concerning environmental, natural and cultural resources. In order to maintain compliance with water quality and air emissions standards, the team interacts with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to coordinate inspections and obtain permit renewals.

Hazardous materials management and disposal is coordinated with the Defense Logistics Agency. The handling of hazardous materials requires the training of base personnel on proper labeling and packaging.

A partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency aids Arnold AFB in managing 40,000 acres of forests and wildlife habitat, many of which is open to the public for recreational use. The Base is home to 137 species of plants, animals and invertebrates identified by the state for protection and three species of bats under federal protection.

The team also takes special care with cultural resources, including 187 archaeological sites. To facilitate understanding and management of traditional cultural properties, they consult with 15 federally-recognized Native American tribes.

“Installation Management balances the stewardship of various resources entrusted to the Air Force with the current and future needs of the Air Force mission,” said David Carlon, chief of the Section.

The Emergency Management Section watches and prepares for crises. When one strikes, the Emergency Operations Center is stood up to provide support to the incident commander from subject matter experts across the installation.

“We focus on an ‘all hazards’ approach and plan for a worst case scenario,” said J.D. Dill, chief of the Section. “Anything less than worst case is always a great thing.”

Preparation is key. The group develops action plans to mitigate and recover from incidents, both natural and man-made. They also help Arnold AFB personnel prepare through trainings, conducting “all hazard” threat assessments and holding base-wide exercises, amongst other activities.

The Section is also tasked with monitoring severe weather. They receive briefings from National Weather Service offices and the 26th Operational Weather Squadron in Shreveport, Louisiana. If there is a threat of severe weather, an alert is pushed out to Arnold AFB personnel to enable them to take precautions.

“As Emergency Mangers, we work very closely with many partners here on Arnold Air Force Base and the local community,” Dill said. “From security and police officers, Operations Center personnel, or firefighters, we must all work together as a team in order to be successful in any situation.”

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Arnold Air Force Base website.