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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2009

Farewell to an old friend

By 2nd Lt. Ashleigh Peck 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Without any pomp and circumstance, retirement ceremony or even a letter of appreciation, Team Charleston recently said goodbye to a 40-year veteran that contributed to the wing mission during the past five decades.

The veteran is a walk-in refrigeration unit used by the 437th Aerial Port Squadron's special handling division that keeps perishable items fresh before shipment.

The walk-in refrigeration unit, or "reefer," refurbishing project was completed Aug. 17 after nine months of coordination, funding and construction after the old unit was found to be unusable.

"There was no way you could have put supplies or food in there and keep it cool like it should be for shipping," said Sam Kirton, 437th Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation, air and cooling mechanic. "It was a disaster for the mission."

Mr. Kirton, along with civil engineer, Joe Rackley, conducted an initial evaluation of the unit in December 2008 to see if the unit could be repaired first.

After the initial inspection, Mr. Kirton, who has 40-years of refrigeration experience, said the reefer was not maintainable. With leaking right chiller units, bad insulation, cracks in the wall and bad rollers used to move items in an out of the unit, the reefer was unable to maintain a constant temperature.

With confirmation the unit was unrepairable, Mr. Kirton said the next step was finding a new unit that would last another 40 years and require very little maintenance.

The 437 APS Expeditionary Flight Chief Ron Westall, said the state-of-the-art reefer uses less energy, has enhanced personnel safety with a no slip walk surface, increased mission readiness by enabling heavy pallets to be pushed by one person with minimal physical effort and improved esthetics of the walk-in refrigeration unit. During installation, fire suppression units and brighter lights were also installed.

Another feature of the new reefer includes the latest safety features such as oxygen and carbon dioxide sensors. Before a person enters, an alarm goes off if the levels do not meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for carbon dioxide. A person needs 11 percent oxygen for normal respiration and the monitor displays what percentage of oxygen is available.

With the new unit fully operational, Mr. Westall said not only will the Airmen and civilians working in the reefer be better able to accomplish their mission, but customers will also be guaranteed safety.

"We as an aerial port can now better support our customer's refrigerated cargo needs by ensuring their items are maintained at the correct temperature while awaiting airlift," Mr. Westall said.

Mr. Westall added that before, it was difficult to maintain the required 42 degree temperature necessary to have a long shelf life for the items awaiting shipment.

Throughout the project, both squadrons worked together in order to expedite the completion.

The 437 CES team installed new insulation and safety features along with the many other items that directly support the operation of the cooling unit. The 437 APS team added the no-slip walk surface, painted the inside floor and lubricated, refurbished and replaced more than 400 ball-transfer units and load rollers.

The 437 APS Mechanized Maters Handling Systems team of Mark Trecy, Donald Bower, Sylvester Ezell, Wesley White, Rene Romero and Jerry Wylym were all instrumental in the project, according to Mr. Westall. He added those members will receive a Notable Achievement Award.

With the project now completed, the section's safety program, pallet handing capability and appearance in the walk-in reefer have been improved, but the most important aspect is the unit's support to customers around the globe with items stored at the correct temperature while stored on base.