JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Recently, the third-largest vehicle maintenance fleet in the U.S. Air Force, centered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, has achieved and maintained a 93-percent mission-capable rate.
Such a solid Pacific Air Forces ranking proves the 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron is ready for the fight tonight and tomorrow.
Achieving these types of operational levels, though, is no small feat for the 673d LRS. These Vehicle Maintenance Airmen are responsible for managing, inspecting, troubleshooting and undertaking all vehicle repairs.
“On a daily basis, we maintain more than 1,700 vehicles with an estimated value of $203 million,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Neigel Wright, 673d LRS fleet management and analysis section chief. “Our customer base encompasses both the 3rd Wing and 673d Air Base Wing, as well as U.S. Army Alaska, Alaska Command, 176th Alaska Air National Guard, 477th Air Force Reserves, 611th Air Operations Center, 611th Air Support Group, and the Marine Reserve at JBER alone. This doesn’t include the many geographically separated customers we support throughout the Pacific.”
Even though this giant machine of personnel and equipment’s gears are well-oiled, they know it is essential to continue this pursuit for excellence. They must stay familiar with the ever-changing variety of vehicles with a vast mixture of maintenance needs.
“From the snow blowers, snow plows, and broom trucks to the flight line fuel trucks, deicers and staircase trucks, if it’s broke, we fix it,” said Leon Sutton, shop supervisor for the 673d LRS. “It doesn’t matter if it’s New Year’s Eve on a shift change, our guys come in and get the job done so the mission keeps going.”
Being in the far north, JBER faces a unique set of issues. The extreme climate and the installation’s sheer size mean JBER trucks are used three to four times more than trucks in the Lower 48, in terms of hours on the road.
During the summer months, rebuild programs go into full swing, but starting every October, the Heavy Equipment Repair and Flightline Maintenance shops begin 24/7 operations, dedicated to snow removal with more than 100 vehicles to service. No matter what the weather or problem is, the Airmen's expertise is vital to the base’s success.
“Overall, it’s a team effort to make sure our vehicles are maintained and serviced in a timely manner,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Proteau, noncommissioned officer in charge of Flightline Maintenance. “Whether it’s a part or tool needed from one of the other shops, or simply making sure that a job is done right instead of fast, our Airmen step up to the plate and give it their all.”
A 93 percent rating means that for 1,700 vehicles, more than 1,580 of them are fully operational and ready for the mission, while the others are being repaired or replaced.
Since vehicle maintenance Airmen are required to be subject matter experts on the many different machines they repair, specialized on-the-job training is received.
“I think the tactile type of advanced training our Airmen receive from the PACAF Transportation Center helps our Airmen sharpen their skill-set immensely,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jackie Rieke, 673d LRS Flight Support section chief. “This set-aside time allows them to combine their on-the-job training with a deeper knowledge of their professional expertise. Sure it takes them out of the bay for the day, but we gain that back tenfold when they are able to advance in their specialized skills and get repairs done more efficiently.”
Whether it is transportation vehicles, upholstery, or body work, it is peoples’ dedication to fixing something right the first time that is the key to success, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Wooldridge, 673d LRS main shop noncommissioned officer in charge.
“I have stuck with asking my Airmen to do something over telling them,” Wooldridge said. “I find a general and mutual level of respect increases almost anyone’s desire to put quality over quantity. I believe this is what truly gives us the ability to achieve and maintain these kind of ratings.”