Flight gives face-lift to Eglin's vehicle fleet

  • Published
  • By Lois Walsh
  • Eglin Air Force Base Public Affairs
Keeping the Air Force's third largest vehicle fleet looking good is not an easy task, but efforts by the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Vehicle Management Flight make it happen.

Corrosion control is a priority for the flight, a challenge in northwest Florida. According to Karen Pinkley, the flight's heavy mobile equipment mechanic inspector, salt water and hot sun cause the paint to deteriorate. The deterioration is considered routine wear and tear on vehicles, most of which is noted during scheduled maintenance.

"We spot it and open a work order for corrosion control," Pinkley said. "New vehicles automatically get new bed liners to protect them."

A budget of approximately $60,000 only goes so far, so older vehicles get their life extended by just painting the parts that need it, while newer vehicles get complete paint jobs when warranted. Approximately half of the nearly 100 vehicles waiting to get painted will be completed fiscal year 2014.

"Corrosion control has a direct benefit because of the money it saves by avoiding unnecessary expenses like replacing a vehicle," said 1st Lt. P.J. Adeji-Paul, the vehicle management flight commander. "We are able to avoid spending hundreds of dollars replacing parts such as engine hoods just by repairing and monitoring corrosion."

Vehicle size matters when the flight has to determine how to get the work done most efficiently. Vehicle management uses their in-house body shop for large items like buses, fire trucks and 10-ton tractors. They contract out other vehicles and equipment to local vendors and one on-base government contractor.

"We find out who can handle the vehicle, get a price and then get the best paint job for our money," Pinkley said.

One person who can handle the job is painter Henry Isaacs. He spent 20 years in the Air Force doing what he calls "allied trade," anything on a vehicle, bumper to bumper. Now, he does the body work needed before a paint job brings the vehicle back to life. Repainting a vehicle the size of a bus can take 15 days to prep and paint. It's not unusual to see ambulances, fork lifts and security forces vehicles parked outside their warehouse.

"We determine whether to spot paint or do a complete paint job," Isaacs said. "There has to be enough value and years left on the vehicle to extend its life."

Vehicle maintenance is able to maintain the fleet for less than one percent of the $140 million fleet value, partly due to corrosion control, Adeji-Paul said.

"If a unit loses their vehicle as a result of corrosion, it would need to go through the procurement process to replace it, a process that can take up to three years not to mention the cost of purchasing the new vehicle," he said.

The number of vehicles waiting to be painted is not intimidating to Isaacs who calls the work he does his "dream job."

"I love this job," he said. "I enjoy making ugly things beautiful again."