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Vehicle maintenance running on all cylinders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing has a very important job to do. Taking the fight directly to remaining Islamic State forces with relentless daily air strikes requires a constant flow of aircraft circling the battlespace overhead.


Meeting the demands of such a mission requires an extensive logistical network focused on getting the right people to the right location supplied with the right equipment. Though the U.S. Air Force receives much acclaim for its capabilities in the air and space frontiers, real mission accomplishment can only begin where the rubber meets the road.


“If we weren’t here doing our job, everybody would be pushing,” said Master Sgt. Eddie Polk, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Maintenance Flight superintendent.


Polk and his Airmen, a group numbering less than 20 mechanics deployed from various bases across the Air Force, are responsible for maintaining the operability of more than 300 vehicles designated for use on the installation. Passenger cars and emergency response vehicles, to forklifts and road graders, the team understands that virtually every aspect of the wing’s crucial mission hinges on their ability to perform.


“Sweepers clean the flight line, Bobcats tow the munitions that eventually get delivered to the enemy, the water trucks are used to maintain the latrines and support the dining facility; you name it,” said Polk. “We see every broken vehicle as another person who can’t do their mission, and as soon as we can get it if fixed, they can get back to doing what they do.”


On any given day, the vehicle maintenance facility is buzzing with activity. Airmen leaning over, crawling beneath, and climbing atop a wide variety of vehicles all in various phases of disassembly -- motor oil meeting sweat as the team works together to meet the high demand. At the 332nd ELRS, work never stops. The pace only relents briefly when the logistical challenges of working in an expeditionary environment come into play.


“Back at home station it’s much easier to get parts,” said Polk. “On some occasions we find ourselves keeping vehicles here longer because we may be lacking troubleshooting tools, or the ability to get replacement parts shipped in fast enough.”


With a shop filling up and more calls coming in, these Airmen have no time to sit on their hands. Spare time is spent performing periodic preventative maintenance like oil changes and air conditioning checks, as well as countless hours spent training. Many members deploy from home units with very little experience on specialized vehicles they’ll encounter here, so it’s crucial that shop leaders pass down all the knowledge they can.


“An engine is an engine and a pumping system is a pumping system, but there are all kinds of complications when you’re dealing with different vehicle purposes, makes, models and years,” said Jeff Park, U.S. Air Force Central Command vehicle program manager. “In a fleet of 300 vehicles, 200 of them could be different and that’s been an interesting challenge for us. You just have to count on a team coming together and drawing experience from everyone in the shop.”


As the wing continues pummeling Islamic State forces throughout the region and taking on new construction projects to increase capabilities on base, the Airmen of the vehicle maintenance shop know the pace isn’t likely to let up any time soon. In the face of a challenge, Polk knows his team is well aware of the impact they have on the fight going forward.