Monday, August 20, 2007

KBR and Team Blinky

D squared: "First the fan seems to shift into a lower speed regardless of temperature setting. Then it makes some funny noises. Before we know it, the hut temp starts rising despite our attempts to crank down the controller to 16 degrees celsius. The inside temp has been climbing into the 80's and now 90's in the afternoon. We try to shift modes into "fan only" and we have also started pouring water on the outside condenser to cool it off; it sits in direct sunlight all day. Well, anyway the fan eventually shuts off and the unit goes from a red light and starts blinking "red".
Two KBR HVAC "experts" have responded to our trouble call tonight. One guy is outside grabbing some tools, and the other is standing in our hut looking at the A.C. unit and listening intently to D squared explain our problem. He's giving the appearance of using active listening skills, and nods at all the appropriate pauses, just in case we think there's a breakdown in communication.
After D squared gives an exhaustive and thorough explaination of our woes, the second KBR guy comes in. KRB number one looks at him, and as we lean forward expecting keen insights and nods of understanding, maybe a few "Ah, Ha! Elementary, of course" moments...he simply states "Blinky, Blinky" to the second guy. KRB guy number two gives a solumn and grave nod, wincing as he displays deep knowledge of the "Blinky, Blinky." It's going to be a long afternoon...

The ensuing week brought both insight and bemusement to how KBR HVAC guys work. Most are from Turkey, and we have a hard time communicating with them. I have a harder time understanding where the credentials came from. Several "teams" show up on various days to fix our AC unit and compressor, each with their own brand of comprehensive HVAC know-how:

Team Blinky comes in with the standard assumption that our unit is low on freon and just needs a charge. Out comes the compressed freon, a few hoses and gauges, and "presto" Team Blinky is convinced our unit is running like a top. It's midnight, and we try to tell them "sure, it seems to work now. It's been cooling down for hours. Why don't you come back, oh, say around 2 PM tomorrow afternoon." Big smiles from Team Blinky as they just want us to sign the service order so they can get out of there. I don't think they get it.

Team Two comes the next day and announces "All those other guys put too much freon in these things. They run so inefficiently and never last. You just can't over-pressurize these units." He proceeds to bleed out around 80% of the compressor's freon for better or worse as he quips "Wow! Did you see that stuff spray out of there? Don't let em' see you do that in the States'!"...noted.

Team Three comes two days later. Hut temps are ranging in the low 100's during the day, and our modest digs are now rendered useless. Half of us move into a tent, and the other half move into the operating room. Team three's preconceived notion: those filters are always getting clogged, and no one cleans them right. They spend two hours straightening drain hoses and cleaning the filters that were just cleaned within the week. "We clean filters. Good now. You sign right here, it's OK." Turns out: not so much...

We complain loud and long enough, threatening to shut down the operating room, that KRB agrees to put in a bigger 3 ton unit. After six days, a little progress.
So, the HVAC supervisor comes out for a site survey and to figure out why team after team has failed to recognize that our unit is just plain out of commission. He's even more amusing to talk to than Team Blinky:
Supervisor: "these things are breaking down all over the place. They aren't even designed to work in the heat."
I'm struck by the paradox, but it gets better as Eric suggests we move the new compressor to the side of the hut where it's shaded 80% of the day.
Supervisor: "What? That would ruin it! No good."

"The shade? No good? How is this possible?"

We go round and round looking for clarification on exactly why shade is bad, yet the A.C. units aren't designed to work in the heat. Nothing coherent is forthcoming...not that I expected it.


Cynthia said...

This is just a hilarious story!!! So sorry about the ridiculous temps and lack of cooling but you're rendition is extremely humorous. So you're soooooo close!! Almost done!!! :-)

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/21/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Militant Bibliophile said...

Ah, KBR. A true hit-or-miss company in theater. The guys I worked with on TQ were good to go (for the most part), all US contractors with decades of experience. The TCN's they hire though? Not so much. Case in point, an Eastern European crew setting up a concrete plant that tried to get my platoon to do all their heavy equipment work for them.

I seriously feel for you guys!

mamaworecombatboots said...

What I don't understand is why we all aren't still living in caves.... None of us can get through a single day without 10 mistakes and yet, here we are, still struggling. Ask any WWII vet if they would trade w/ya. Hope they get it going!

Bag Blog said...

I think I know those guys. Did they use to live in OK and work for an electrician?

ozarkglittergirl said...

At least you haven't lost your sense of humor...or part of it, anyway.
signed the girl from the town with big canoes

Teflon Don said...

Heh. Sounds like our time in Falluja trying to get our generator fixed.

You around and up for Green Bean on 1 Sep?

Debbi (no 'e' on the end) said...

Well this was a laugh I needed today. I'm sure gonna miss your writing for sure....hope you keep up the blog after you head out. And defininately keep us up to date on the AC too. Can you still get mail?

Jim said...

I've got three words for you: "the lowest bidder". From what I've heard about KBR (from several guys that have been in country... including my cousin, this is pretty much SOP for them.

Jim C