“It allows us to train boom operators in abnormal and emergency processes that we can’t safely recreate in the air,” said Beebe. “You also don’t have to fly to get to a different receiver. Just flip a switch and a fighter becomes a C-17.”
Eventually the simulators will be able to link with other Air Force simulators around the world, allowing for receiver and tanker crews to perform complete aerial refueling operations in a virtual environment.
Besides energy-saving initiatives, Grissom also started maintaining nearly 3 acres of protected wetlands last year. Crews installed hiking paths through the area, and workers at the base now use it as a recreational site.
“We’ve got all sorts of gorgeous wildlife that live on base,” Orders-Woempner said. “Our environmental specialist works hard to keep it the way nature intended it. The land is where we train. The environment is where we train. We don’t want to train on an environment that’s polluted and tainted.”
The base’s recycling program also continues to grow each year, he said. Last year, Grissom recycled 174 tons of material, including 91 tons of scrap metal, 48 tons of cardboard, 29 tons of paper and 2 tons of used tires.
The recycling program brings in more than $20,000 annually, which is used in future conservation efforts.
“Recycling has truly become a way of life around Grissom,” Orders-Woempner said. “It’s a culture. You can’t walk 20 feet without running into a recycling bin somewhere.”
The initiatives at Grissom are part of a larger push by the DOD to ensure access to reliable sources of energy. According to the Pew study, reliable, renewable energy is important for mission assurance, cost savings and compliance with laws and regulations.
But Orders-Woempner said maybe the biggest reason for the upgrades at Grissom is this: It’s the right thing to do.