Base vehicles keep on rolling

  • Published
  • By Jamie Haig
  • 16th SOW Public Affairs
More than 800 government vehicles worth $43 million traverse Hurlburt Field day and night thanks to the diligence of 60 vehicle maintainers.

The 16th Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Maintenance Flight handles the repairs and maintenance for all vehicles – from fire trucks to cranes, aircraft towing units to police cars.

Vehicles are brought in monthly for regularly-scheduled maintenance and are quickly repaired.
"Our goal is to keep a 90 percent maintenance rate," said Sergeant Weaver. "We average 93-95 percent."

The shop provides service to 28 different organizations and averages 300 work orders a month, not including last-minute break downs or accidents. The turnaround time for general vehicle maintenance is 24 hours.

The shop also has one or two maintainers on call for emergencies such as a fire truck breaking down.

"We've only got three crash fire trucks on base," said Sergeant Weaver. "If one breaks down, it needs to be fixed immediately or the crash crew ability could be severely hampered."

The four-month technical training for maintainers new to the Air Force takes place at Fort Hueneme, Calif. Training covers every aspect of mechanics including body work, heavy vehicles, control and analysis and fire truck repair.

Additional training for the variety of manufacturers is limited due to funding and availability. Deployments and exercises makes cutting people loose tough.

"We've got a few people heading to Fort Rucker, Ala., for training on the wreckers used in convoy duty during deployments," Sergeant Weaver said. "Some vehicles we need to know how to fix immediately."

Senior Airman Chad Hesler, 16th LRS, was recruited by the Air Force to be a mechanic.
"I was working as a maintenance supervisor at a television station," said Airman Hesler. "When I talked to the recruiter, I told him I like doing this but would like to learn more."

The 16th LRS vehicle maintenance team learns more and more with each new vehicle model.
"Our biggest challenge is the complexity of our fleet," said Senior Master Sgt. Tommy Weaver, 16th LRS fleet manager. "We've got numerous manufacturers, models and types of vehicles, and they get more complex each year so it's getting harder to keep up with the technology."

Airman Hesler learned this lesson while at technical school.

"While I was in school, they were teaching us about two separate engines that were built six months apart with different specifications," said Airman Hesler. "And while we were learning these two, another model of that engine was being built. That's the hardest part, everything changes so quickly."

Airman Hesler and the rest of the mechanics within the minor maintenance section complete 80 percent of their work orders in 24 hours or less.

"These maintainers adapt and overcome the fast-paced changes in the vehicle industry," said Sergeant Weaver.

"What's important is that we teach each other," Airman Hesler said. "We read manuals and magazines and try to keep up and then share that information with other mechanics."

The knowledge these Airmen learn not only saves the Air Force money but also lives.

Staff Sgt. Clay Crow, 16th LRS, is the resident crane expert in the shop. When the 16th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron had a problem with a crane spooling out too much cable and jamming up, Sergeant Crow stepped up to solve the problem.

"It was a dangerous situation because the crane would release too much cable," said Sergeant Crow. "If an engine was attached to the crane, this could've caused injuries."

He reviewed the equipment, talked with personnel using the crane, consulted the manufacturer and found the solution. After equipment was retrieved from Mobile, Ala., the crane was repaired and back in service within 24 hours.

The 16th LRS Vehicle Maintenance Flight is a tight group that works hard to get the job done quickly and the right way.