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Engineers 'BEEF' up Tent City

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (Oct. 12, 2001) -- There aren't many places here in Tent City where this unit hasn't left it's mark.

Examples include the monolithic slabs that protect Tent City residents from shrapnel, the humming air conditioners that lull them to sleep at night, the convenient 120-volt electric outlets that power their shavers, or even, perhaps, the unit logos stamped into the chunks of sidewalk near their tents.

A pentagon icon.

The tell-tale logo of PRIME BEEF, a bull, is the symbol of a unique brand of craftsman.

There are some 26 individuals with the Prime Base Engineering Emergency Force working to keep the infrastructure that houses and shelters Operation Northern Watch personnel in good order. According to Senior Master Sgt. Art Brown, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany and PRIME BEEF team chief, most of these people are on a three-month rotation from Ramstein. There are also National Guard members and one augmentee from Charleston Air Force Base with the team.

These PRIME BEEF team members perform a dizzying array of jobs to keep Tent City working smoothly.

"The number of jobs we work here includes structural work, power systems maintenance, power production facility maintenance, installation and maintenance of utilities, and heavy equipment operation," said Brown. "In addition, we help move and secure barriers to assist with force protection."

In fact, when in Tent City, it's hard to not see the craft of PRIME BEEF personnel.

"When you're sitting around chilling on your front porch, and you look around, that's us. Everything you can see," said Senior Airman Robert Stimson, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialist with the 786th CES. ONW is Stimson's first non-training mission.

Stimson spends most days working to ensure ONW members living in tents keep cool.

"People will make a service call and say, 'my AC is not working and this is where I live.' We grab our tools and head out on the job," said Stimson. "Usually we can get out there in 30 minutes to an hour."

Stimson said the number of calls he gets would decrease if tent dwellers didn't overwork their environmental control units.

"There is a temperature adjustment that says increase/decrease. People take those knobs and turn them all the way past where they are supposed to go. Eventually, the coil gets frost on it and it basically turns into a ball of ice. Then they have no air conditioning," said Stimson.

According to Stimson, personnel should not turn their ECU's control knob past the 'C' in the word "decrease," which is printed above the knob.

Providing power to such equipment as an ECU or the outlets inside tents here is the job of another team, the power crew.

Staff Sgt. Helen Yankovich, an electrician with the 786th CES, is part of the power crew. They are charged with taking commercial power and distributing it throughout Tent City. "We distribute it for lights, your convenience outlets, bathrooms, security lighting and perimeter lighting," said Yankovich.

For Yankovich, the most common service call is flipping breakers back on after tent residents plug in unauthorized items such as curling irons or cook tops.

Yankovich feels her role at ONW has a direct influence on the misison.

"My job is making an improvement for everyone else. I do everything I can to provide creature comfort. At the end of the day we can see what we have done, and we know it directly enhances somebody's morale. That gives everybody that extra oomph to get their job done," said Yankovich.

For all civil engineer squadron members, PRIME BEEF is the chance to do their CE job outside the training environment at a real-world contingency.

"When we go PRIME BEEF, we are really doing what our mission is as CE. We deploy to a forward base, and we build a bare base or maintain a bare-base area. This is what we are trained to do," said Brown. "We bed down personnel so they can maintain aircraft so they can go fight and win."

"This is as real as it gets," added Yankovich. "This is why we joined up - to defend America. I am proud to be a part of that."

A tiny four-by-four grid of dots. A tiny representation of the Mandelbrot Set. An oscillator from the Game of Life. A twisty thing. A snowflake.