Vehicles on the road, iron in the air

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

With more than 45 different airframes in the Air Force's inventory totaling more than 5,500 aircraft, each one relies expert teams and equipment to keep them ready to fly at a moment's notice. 

The maintainers on the ground, on the other hand, also rely on a variety of vehicles and ground equipment to accomplish their mission. 

"We keep vehicles on the road to get 'iron' in the air," said Chief Master Sgt. David Matos, the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle fleet manager. "We've got to keep the mission 'rolling' -- it's all about getting those planes in the air."

Vehicle management has more than 75 Airmen, who handle an average of 450 work orders each month, with 4,830 repair actions totaling nearly 6,200 hours on the job while maintaining a 91 percent of the fleet in working order at all times. Matos said this beat's the U.S. Air Forces Central Command's standard by 6 percent.

"The typical maintenance we handle here includes everything from the mobile calls on flightline type vehicles to engine rebuilds, hydraulics, cylinder repairs and rebuilds," said Master Sgt. Richard Hamilton, the 379th ELRS vehicle management foreman. "The vehicles include everything from your pickup trucks all the way up there through your Tunner 60K aircraft cargo loader."

Hamilton said his team is responsible for the bumper to bumper maintenance on every one of those vehicles and for ensuring a rapid turnaround rate.

"Our 24-hour turnaround rate from the point the customer brings the vehicle into us to where we return the vehicle to our customer is on average 69.9 percent. This is incredible for 1,100 vehicles valued at approximately $182 million in a deployed location, where we have every part we get shipped to us."

Whether it's a gasoline or diesel engine, a transmission, drive train or an air conditioning system, the Airmen's expertise is vital to the wing's success.

"I've been deployed eight times and never in my career worked with a harder working group of Airmen," Matos said. "For instance, my guys repaired 33 vehicles in one week -- I've never been at a place that's happened, ever."

Vehicle management Airmen inspect, troubleshoot and repair vehicles, schedule and coordinate vehicle maintenance for the entire motor pool and use a sophisticated computer system keep track of the maintenance of all the vehicles on base. They are also responsible for long-range forecasting of maintenance needs based on their knowledge of the vehicles and the people who drive them, and systematically analyze malfunctions by visual and auditory examination or through the use of test equipment.

"We represent seven different career fields here including everything from our lease maintenance program, customer service, fire truck mechanics, refueling mechanics, etc.," he said. "When people think of vehicle maintenance they think of a mechanic, but there's a lot more to it than just turning wrenches. There are also fleet management personnel keeping track of all those vehicles while completing all the data collections and schedule all the vehicles in for annual maintenance."

Vehicle management not only maintains vehicles, but also keeps records for all vehicles and regulates the lease management program as well. This program oversees a lease vehicle fleet size of more than 650 vehicles from nearly 50 organizations across the base.

"What we do is keep vehicles on the road," said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Grove, the 379th ELRS lease vehicle management NCO in charge. "We run the base's vehicle control program that helps the Air Force manage what we have to do to keep the vehicles rolling. What we do empowers our unit vehicle control officers so they can accomplish what they need to in their own unit."

The vehicle maintenance world at the 379th AEW is vital to the mission, Hamilton said.

"Our vehicle maintenance touches every part of the base," Hamilton said. "Everything happening on this base can't be done without a vehicle. We have more than 160 mission critical vehicles here. Critical vehicles are only dedicated to launching aircraft, sustaining sorties, fire trucks or refuelers, and your 60Ks that load the cargo and material handling equipment. We maintain a 91 percent critical vehicle turnaround rate."

Matos said the nearly 45 buses running the base shuttle bus system take up 40 percent of their workload, followed closely by the security forces' Humvees. These buses alone, transport roughly 82,000 passengers a month.

"So without vehicle maintenance, the mission doesn't get done," the Matos said. "We have a hand in just about every single function on this base in one form or another."

Without the vehicle maintenance teams, supply deliveries can't be made, aircraft fueling can't be done and security forces can't do their patrols without their vehicles, Hamilton said.

 "Nothing moves without mechanics," he said.