Electrical flight keeps Vandenberg lit up after dark

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. , --
Staff. Sgt. Benjamin White and Staff. Sgt. David Lewis, both members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, utilize an extend-o - stick to shut off the power source of a building in the process of being upgraded on April 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo / SrA Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. , -- Staff. Sgt. Benjamin White and Staff. Sgt. David Lewis, both members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, utilize an extend-o - stick to shut off the power source of a building in the process of being upgraded on April 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo / SrA Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. , --
Staff Sgt. Benjamin White and Staff Sgt. David Lewis, both members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, utilize an extend-o - stick to shut off the power source of a building in the process of being upgraded on April 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo / SrA Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. , -- Staff Sgt. Benjamin White and Staff Sgt. David Lewis, both members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, utilize an extend-o - stick to shut off the power source of a building in the process of being upgraded on April 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo / SrA Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Climbing up to the top of a 40-foot-tall electrical pole, only to be met by large amounts of electricity that could kill you if not handled properly, it is no easy task. Staff Sgt. Arnold Sarmiento and the rest of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical shop, however, are up to the challenge.

These electrical craftsmen make a living by supplying the base with power both inside and out.

"You could split our shop into two groups-interior power, which is your light fixtures and computers and indoor appliances, and exterior power which is everything outside," Sergeant Sarmiento said.

The shop maintains power for every building and power line on base, including the power lines that are not accessible by road.

"When we go out, we like to use the bucket," Sergeant Sarmiento said. "However, most of our lines are not accessible by the road, so we have to climb."

Climbing can be fun, but if a person is not used to climbing it can be scary. It is the ultimate test of working under pressure, he said.

"You don't know how you're going to react when you have climbed up to the top of a pole and the wind blows another line loose," Sergeant Sarmiento said. "It can be nerve racking."

Although the shops main duty is maintaining electrical equipment, they occasionally will install power lines.

"When power lines went down on south base, the contractors on base crunched the numbers and decided it would be cheaper if we installed the lines," Sergeant Sarmiento said.

This multi-faceted career field works on power ranging from a microwave that is used to make a bagel in the morning, to the lights at the space-launch complexes that are used to light up the pad. However, their most recognizable work might be that of the small light-emitting diodes that are being used to replace the common street light, a cost-effective initiative that will save the Air Force money.

"We've estimated, with a 350 watt savings, each fixture could save $88.75 per year," said Brad King, the 30th CES base energy manager. "More than 5,000 light fixtures on base could potentially be replaced. That's a savings of nearly half-a-million dollars per year."

The everyday accomplishments of this 24/7 career field are a great asset to Vandenberg. Their hard work is not only keeping the base lights on physically, but also financially.