AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
The U.S. Air Force is known for its planes and pilots. But having a fully functional, well maintained vehicle fleet is just as important, in order to keep wings in the air. The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing has a fleet of approximately 600 vehicles, used to support its mission of delivering air power and defending the region. Whether it is a pickup truck, Humvee, forklift or 60K Aircraft cargo loader, vehicle management specialists assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron must be proficient with a large tool kit (metaphorically and literally) to keep those motors running.
It’s the responsibility of VM specialists to inspect, troubleshoot and repair standard and specialized vehicles. From gasoline and diesel engines, to hydraulic and air systems, VM specialists receive training in a wide variety of areas to ensure every vehicle gets the attention it needs.
“We really can fix anything,” said Master Sgt. Alyssa Sutton. But our main focus is on maintaining the fleet before we have to fix it. We focus on scheduled and preventative maintenance like oil changes. We bring vehicles in for the little things to prevent big issues like changing engines and suffering major component failures.”
Vehicle maintenance at Al Dhafra Air Base is divided into two sections, Material Handling Equipment and General Purpose.
Material Handling Equipment technicians provide maintenance for some of the largest land based vehicles the Air Force has to offer. These are the Airmen who receive specialty training to maintain forklifts, cargo loaders and other civil engineering equipment.
“They are a specialized shred out of our AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) compared to our general purpose mechanics,” said Sutton.
Technicians trained to work on general purpose vehicles can fix any blue fleet vehicles which are government owned and do not fall under MHE.
“We do rotate however,” said Sutton. “It’s all the same equipment types. They are different vehicles but they all run similar systems — hydraulics, diesel engines, electrical — so we do cross-flow our Airmen."
In deployed locations such as ADAB, VM flights may only have a handful of technicians with specialized training, so general purpose technicians get the opportunity to diversify their skill sets and work on those specialized pieces of equipment. As vehicles become more complex and their systems more intricate, having the ability to receive hands on training, experience, and familiarity with new vehicle types are all force multipliers for VM specialists.
“Vehicles are a lot more complicated than most people think," said Sutton. “Someone might say, ‘Oh well anybody can fix a truck,’ but there are a lot of computers and electrical systems that go into vehicles now. That adds to their complexity and our Airmen have to be adaptable to the vehicle types. Aircraft maintainers may focus on one aircraft type or have specialty shops. But our techs do everything, we're a one stop shop. If a vehicle comes in we’ll change the oil, troubleshoot electrical and fix hydraulic components — the whole nine yards.”