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Helicopter support trailer provides rapid mobility

Airman 1st Class Marcos Dominguez and Staff Sgt. Brendon Holland, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron mobility journeymen, prepare the helicopter support trailer to depart for Atlantic Rescue ‘07 at McDill Air force Base, Fla. Oct. 24, 2006. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Mona Ferrell)

Airman 1st Class Marcos Dominguez and Staff Sgt. Brendon Holland, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron mobility journeymen, prepare the helicopter support trailer for a mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Mona Ferrell)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNEWS) -- It appears to be just a plain gray box, with a drop down rear ramp and external lighting. There are no flashy unit murals or logos. In fact, there is no labeling on the trailer at all, other than a government license plate.

This nondescript trailer, recently purchased by the 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk mobility and support section, is a generator-equipped 28-foot race trailer that serves as a mobile office, tool room and shelter for deployed maintainers. The trailer radically shortens the time it takes to deploy for exercises, stateside contingencies and disaster relief operations.

"The trailer's non-descript nature is intentional," said Staff Sgt. Dustin Shrout, head of the HH-60G composite tool kit program at the 723rd AMXS, who worked closely with the manufacturer during its two-month, $26,000 construction process.

"With up to $1 million of one-of-a-kind mission-essential gear rolling into a disaster zone, advertising isn't always a wise plan," said Sergeant Shrout.

The vehicle is a completely self-contained mobile tool room; with metal clad counter tops, labeled tool drawers and large overhead bins that run the length of the unit.

"The trailer is equipped with a large generator for extended operations in disaster areas, or in the field away from a power grid," said Sergeant Shrout. "On the roof is an air-conditioning unit to keep the metal room comfortable in the heat of a desert training area."

To keep the maintainers sheltered and cool, a full-length awning can be deployed to shade the trailer's working side.

But this is only part of the revolution this trailer offers, said Sergeant Shrout. The biggest change is how the maintainers travel to the deployed location in the first place.
"Prior to having the trailer, when word came down to deploy, someone had to go downtown and rent the largest moving van (he or she) could find," said Sergeant Shrout. "Then they had to bring it back to base so everyone in the shop could load it, box-by-box, a process that took up to eight hours."

Not only was this process time consuming and labor intensive, it was very expensive.

"The unit had to sign a local contract and pay a large sum every day we had the truck, including mileage to and from our deployment location," said Sergeant Shrout. "This ended up costing the squadron thousands of dollars."

In addition to the cost, there was no effective way to secure the stacks of expensive and fragile test equipment inside the rental van, and when they arrived, they had no efficient space to issue tools.

"We ended up heaping the gear into the truck, then moving it into other piles all over again when we got where we were going," the sergeant said.

In comparison, a maintenance unit using this trailer can be on the way to a contingency scene less than two hours after an initial notification, said Tech. Sgt. Charles Zenor, 723rd AMXS support technician, who used the trailer on a recent mission.

"All we have to do is roll our toolboxes and test equipment up the ramp, strap it to the cargo rails on the floor, hook up a truck and we are ready to deploy," said the Sergeant.
"When we arrive, we roll the big stuff out to clear the walkway, secure it to the outside of the trailer, start the generator for the floodlights and we are open for business. No more rummaging through piles of gear in the back of a pitch-dark moving van with a flashlight to find something."

With a preset location for every tool, and electricity for laptops and scanners, the team can use the same computerized tool accountability system they had while at home station, said Sergeant Zenor. All the Airmen have to do is load a laptop with the deployed tools database and they are ready to go.

Having access to the computer system also saves time for the deployed maintainers, as they once had to write down the name of every tool they signed out onto a hand receipt, said Sergeant Shrout. Now, all the support technician needs to do is enter a flightline worker's identification number, then scan the tool's bar code.

For Sergeant Shrout, the trailer has changed the way his unit handles contingencies.

"Now we can work nearly anywhere in a hurry, and support the maintainers better than ever," he said. "In the end, that means our aircraft can stay in the air longer to help others."

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