By Senior Airman Javier Alvarez
JBER Public Affairs
Somewhere on the long stretch of road which connects the two most populous cities in Alaska, two truckers meet for an unlikely exchange of cargo.
Heading south from Fairbanks, is a trailer filled to the brim with soiled linen from various federal agencies. Within 72 hours, JBER Laundry workers of the 673d Force Support Squadron will wash, dry, press, fold and wrap the sullied shipment and return it whence it came. In this fashion, five days per week, thousands of pounds of laundry are exchanged.
From the industrial complex that is the JBER Laundry, 63 employees, divided into two collection points and one central wash facility, process nearly 7,000 pounds of textiles daily – almost 3 million pounds per year. To put those figures into perspective, the average load of laundry one does at home is between seven and eight pounds.
“Everything in the laundry is a three-day turn around,” said Brenda Brown, JBER Laundry manager. “The hospitals are the only facilities that have a 24 hour turn around.”
Since the 1950s the JBER Laundry, then known as the Quartermaster Laundry, has been supporting the laundry needs of the local community. The facility is the last of its kind – the only non-privatized laundry service in the military. And while the laundry has claimed many accolades over the years, what management pride themselves on most is being the biggest employer of disabled persons in Alaska, a title they’ve claimed since at least 2003.
Today, these arctic warriors provide laundry support for all military installations in Alaska – including two hospitals, as well as all other state and federal agencies, Brown said. Institutions like the Job Corps, Military Entrance Processing Station, Fisher House, and military lodging facilities, among many others, rely on the expertise of the JBER laundry professionals.
From a large industrial-sized washer which can hold more than 400 pounds of laundry to the smaller machines intended for more delicate items, the facility has the necessary equipment to support the entire state of Alaska. But washing machines are not the only tools laundry experts have at their disposal. Dry cleaning, embroidery and sewing are some of the other services offered.
In summer months, the tempo of operations increases as an influx of service members from around the globe journey to JBER to participate in the unending series of training exercises.
It’s common to have some weeks where overtime is offered, said Susan Meyer, assistant laundry manager.
“[People] need clean linen,” Meyer said. “Soldiers and Airmen need their gear. It’s something that needs to be done. It’s very important. The whole system would break down if it wasn’t for us.”
While the facility is currently closed to the public, future plans include the installation of a cash counter allowing people with JBER access the opportunity to have their clothes laundered by the FSS professionals.