Maintaining the vehicles that move the mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Imagine unloading 60,000 pounds of cargo by hand. Aircraft missions, personnel movements and supply distributions would come to a screeching halt. The time and resources necessary to accomplish such a task would be detrimental to the mission.

To keep the mission moving, a handful of dedicated Airmen who specialize in maintaining material handling equipment from the expeditionary logistics readiness squadron are ready to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty working on some of the largest equipment in the Air Force’s arsenal.

“We take care of all the maintenance for the air transportation operations center (ATOC), which includes anything used to load and unload equipment and people around the area of responsibility,” said Staff Sgt. Jason, the NCO in charge of material handling equipment. “We do it all, from repairs, adjustments and overhauls, including replacing major assemblies and sub-assemblies like power and drivetrains.”

Material handling equipment comes in all shapes and sizes, which include 60,000 and 25,000 aircraft cargo loaders, adverse terrain forklifts and standard forklifts, and personnel moving vehicles like buses.

It’s this equipment that enables a continuous flow of cargo and personnel for missions associated with Operation Inherent Resolve. It’s a prime example of how the Air Force is able to achieve one of its distinct capabilities -- rapid global mobility.

“The ops tempo affects our mission; it makes it difficult to pull a vehicle out of rotation to work on it,” said Senior Airman Jacob. “These vehicles are critical; if they aren’t running it could delay missions which affect other people in the area of responsibility.”

Keeping those assets readily available is challenging, especially as operations continue against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“We do as much preventative maintenance as possible to keep the vehicles in good operating order,” Jason said. “These vehicles are used every day, so it’s important to keep them running. We try to limit it to one vehicle down at a time, so (ATOC) are able to continue their mission.”

In order to keep these giant assets operational they work as a team to expedite the process.

“We try to take care of the most crucial thing first and then prioritize the rest,” Jason said. “Some projects take three people to work on, other times we’re able to split the workload and tackle several jobs. The vehicles we’re working with are big and heavy, so we usually need more than one person on one job.”

The hydraulic fluid, oil, and sweat aren’t just scars on their uniforms from the grueling work these Airmen do every day; it’s badge of honor and their commitment to something bigger than themselves.

“All the ammo, bombs and other assets moving around theater, we’re helping all that happen,” Jacob said. “Working outside in the heat makes it 10 times harder, but being out here you can see the impact; what we are doing is directly affecting OIR. It gives me a sense of pride.”
(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.)