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Plumbers keep the flow at Pope

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kris Levasseur
  • 43rd Airlift Wing public Affairs
Plumbers: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a plumber is defined as 'one who installs, repairs and maintains piping, fittings and fixtures involved in the distribution and use of water in a building.' The definition is a fair assessment of what the job consists of, but for the members of the 43rd Civil Engineer Squadron plumbing flight, it's more than that; it's a way of life.

Although most people don't think about how they get their water, it is the mission of every CE plumber to make sure they receive it, it's clean and all the delivery systems are in working order.

"Really, our job consists of interior plumbing since a civilian company took over maintenance of the water mains around Pope," said Senior Airman Richard Barraza, 43rd CES plumber. "In addition to interior plumbing, we also maintain the Pope Pool as well as more than 450 back-flow devices set up to prevent contamination of our water supply."

Although keeping water flowing to base facilities is their primary mission, the plumbers also install and repair fixtures such as faucets and fountains in every facility on Pope. They even deal with the gas supply, maintaining the systems structure and repairing any damage.

Differing greatly from their mission at home, the deployed environment offers a whole host of new challenges and opportunities to plumbers.

"In my opinion, one of the best parts about our job is setting up a deployed location for the first time," said Senior Airman James Founds, 43rd CES plumber. "Our deployed mission changes depending on where you deploy to. If we end up at a well set up location, we perform minor maintenance on facilities, but our main focus is running water trucks to various locations to ensure the supply doesn't run out.

"Generally, if we end up at a new or temporary location, our focus is on setting up temporary equipment to satisfy the locations water needs," he added.

Members of the 43rd CES plumbing flight have deployed to locations around the world for various different reasons. Whether it's supporting an existing facility or building a base from scratch, Airmen deployed to these locations can count on them to be well-trained.

Selected recruits begin their training as Air Force plumbers during a 47-day basic utilities course at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

"Our training is only nine weeks long, but most of our training is on the job," said Airman Barraza. "The experience I've gained from working with well-trained supervisors has been extremely valuable. Because of what I have learned, I have been able to help keep water flowing to every facility on Pope."