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ACC lead engineer visits SJ, 4th CES showcases innovation

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (left), examines a homemade floating exploratory device Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (left), examines a homemade floating exploratory device Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The device, made by Master Sgt. Gregory Lund, 4th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in-charge of pavements and equipment (right), helped 4th CES Airmen inspect the extent of the damage to base structures with his creation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (left), looks at outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning pipes Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (left), looks at outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning pipes Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Members of the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight replaced outdated HVAC units as part of ongoing base improvements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (center), observes newly installed LED lights Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (center), observes newly installed LED lights Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The transition to LED lights was one of the base upgrades completed by the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight, the new lights are brighter and last longer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (center), examines a relocated shelving unit Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division (center), examines a relocated shelving unit Dec. 12, 2018, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Members of the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight moved the shelving unit to the new squadron building as part of ongoing base improvements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

The United States Air Force encourages innovation. So much so that there are 13 headquarters Air Force-level programs dedicated to cutting costs, increasing efficiency and improving overall product quality.

When challenging situations arise, solutions are not always clearly out lined in Air Force instructions or in training orders. It takes originality and creativity to find the solution, even if it means creating new techniques.

This year’s base tree lighting preparation was initially thought of as a fiasco, said Maj. Brandon Balskus, 4th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander.

Stringing and troubleshooting the lights requires a week’s worth of work for the 4th CES electrical shop. This year, due to deployments and TDYs, the shop was left with less than half its usual manning.

In the past, the Airmen came up with an idea of using lighting projectors to illuminate the tree. This year, when the skeleton crew situation arose, the electrical shop decided to implement the projector idea.

Setting up the projectors ended up taking less than a day’s work and turned out to be a bigger success than anticipated, stated Balskus.

The tree is only one of the many projects where engineers from Team Seymour have used their innovative and ingenious ideas to accomplish tasks, Balskus added.

When Col. Dee Jay Katzer, Air Combat Command chief of civil engineer division, visited the base Dec. 12, he was able to witness firsthand multiple original techniques created and used by 4th CES Airmen.

“I saw empowered engineers coming up with innovative ideas and solutions to make them more mission effective and efficient in what they are doing,” said Katzer.

Some of the projects Katzer observed included a sink hole project, lighting fixture upgrades and repairs to chiller units.

“We’ve had to really lean on the ingenuity of the 4th CES Airmen to come up with solutions that aren’t necessarily written down in a training order,” Balskus said. “It’s up to the creative nature of a civil engineer.”

Original ideas included using a live-action camera fixated to a floating board for capturing pipe layouts, to using an all-terrain vehicle for ripping out old carpeting.

While on the tour, Katzer also saw how the squadron’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning shop is replacing outdated units used for cooling or heating work spaces.

“Our primary focus right now is out-of-date chillers that have been in service for fifteen or more years,” said Tech. Sgt. Terrance Smith, 4th CES HVAC supervisor. “We have several Airmen who are volunteering for these projects to get the experience because not everybody has gotten to work with the same pieces of equipment in their career thus far.”

Airmen from the nine different operations flight shops work to upgrade and repair equipment throughout the base.

“It means a lot being a part of these projects because you get to see how something impacts something else,” said Senior Airman Romello Barboa, 4th CES electrical systems technician. “When you upgrade a light fixture, the maintainers are able to work faster and easier because they don’t have to use flashlights as much. By just changing a light it creates that much of a difference. Overall, it makes me feel better knowing what I do actually matters.”

The continued support, acknowledgement and use of Team Seymour’s ingenuity encourages Airmen to contribute their ideas on real world problems.

“We are in a wing where our leadership, squadron all the way up to the wing level, really push empowered execution, an emphasis on trust and shared consciousness that have focused our efforts on being innovative,” said Balskus.

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