Seven Airmen, one mission, seven hours

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz
  • 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office
Seven Airmen from the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron here replaced a standard deicer truck's heater canister and supporting hardware in seven hours Dec. 27, 2011, -- a task that is nearly impossible according to the manufacturer.

When the standard deicer truck was brought into the vehicle maintenance special purpose shop, the charred paint on the outside was only the first indicator they had a huge issue. The internal damage to the standard deicer was beyond what any of the Airmen had ever experienced.

"We saw that the heating element had internally combusted and shot out the side," said Staff Sgt. Chris Coleman, a 376th ELRS vehicle mechanic.

The Global 1800 standard deicer truck's purpose is to remove ice from aircraft, enabling them to fly. There are seven standard deicers here, and this was the fourth one out of commission due to maintenance issues that day.

"Deicers are mission critical to get the aircraft in and out of here as fast as we can" said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Beaulieu, the 376th ELRS vehicle maintenance superintendent.

Consequently, with only three standard deicers operational, snow falling and more to come in the forecast, the Airmen knew what had to be done.

According to Beaulieu, it was going to cost $35,000 to replace the entire unit that was damaged. The manufacturer estimated repairs would take a minimum of one week in their shop stateside and weeks for parts to arrive back here.

Therefore, vehicle maintenance shop Airmen came up with a plan -- take the parts needed from another decommissioned standard deicer to replace this unit. Once the Airmen started carrying out their plan, they discovered how difficult it really was.

"The heater was turned up like a rusty fish hook," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Tanner, a 376th ELRS vehicle mechanic. "It took a while to get it out, but we made it happen."

The maintainers learned a lot more about how the standard deicer works and how the systems all mesh together.

"This was the most in-depth I've ever gotten with one of these particular vehicles," Coleman said.

Two shifts, seven Airmen and seven hours of maintenance work later, the vehicle maintainers were ready to put all their hard work to the test. It was time to start the standard deicer.

"When it fired up and worked, we were all excited and happy," Coleman said.

The standard deicer was back to work within 24 hours from the time it went down. The actual maintenance took seven hours straight to complete, but all of the planning, coordinating and communicating to the manufacturer took some additional time.

"We are ecstatic to get these vehicles on the flightline to ensure that our aircraft get up regardless of snow," Beaulieu said. "(It's important) to support our missions of airlift, air refueling and getting the men and women into and out of the area of responsibility."