Driving down Litchfield Road in front of Luke Air Force Base, one can’t help but see three things: F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Maj. Troy Gilbert Memorial Bridge and the “Fighter Country” water tower. One of these things has been part of the base’s history longer than the others combined.
The water tower, managed by the members of the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Water Treatment Plant Operations, has been a structure on Luke for more than 50 years. Emblazoned with the Air Education and Training Command shield and the phrase, “Welcome to Fighter Country,” the tower still serves a vital role for Luke today.
“We use it every day,” said Tech Sgt. Timothy Linder, 56th CES Water Treatment Plant Operations NCO in charge. “We pump water from the water wells into the storage towers where it stays until we need it for firefighting or it’s drawn by the system. It’s one of the three towers where all of the potable water comes from.”
Holding 500,000 gallons, the tower supplies all of the potable water to the base east of the bridge. Even while it is being cleaned, it continues to be used. Contractors don scuba gear to clean the tank and inspect the tower from the inside out while it’s in use.
“The tower provides more than 60 percent of the used water on the base,” Linder said. “We monitor everything about the tower from the systems here.”
The tower is also very cost effective, using gravity to provide the pressure needed to supply water to the base.
“It starts to refill when there is 24 feet of water left in the tower,” said Jessica Burnett, 56th CES Water Plant operator. “We can set it to any level we like. If we anticipate higher usage, like during the summer months, we set the tower to refill sooner.”
The water tower has stood over the base through its years of changes. It has seen the F-15E Strike Eagle fly over Luke. It saw the coming of the F-16s and will stand tall when the F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter first lands here. Thanks to the maintenance and care provided by the water treatment plant, the tower looks ready to stand another 50 years providing Luke’s need for water and welcoming new generations of Thunderbolts with the simple phrase, “Welcome to Fighter Country.”