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LRS maintenance shop keeps base vehicles purring

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
When entering the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance shop, one may notice the buzz of pneumatic impact wrenches, the faint shadow of an Airman through mist while he pressure washes a mud-covered Humvee, or the all-to-familiar auto shop smell of oil and gas.

With nearly 600 vehicles in the wing fleet there isn't a day where these Airmen don't get a little grease under their fingernails.

On average, the vehicle maintenance shop works on about 12 to 28 vehicles per week, some having hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer.

Despite the high miles and age of the vehicles, most are in decent condition and only come in for routine maintenance.

"The vehicles are used so much, if we didn't have some kind of preventative maintenance, they wouldn't last," said John Conner, 341st LRS vehicle mechanic. "We schedule inspections, look at the vehicles bumper to bumper, and if we find anything we try to repair or replace the broken part before it becomes a problem with other assemblies."

The blue security forces pick-up trucks have been known to reach more than 200,000 miles. Even the newer Humvees, security forces Airmen drive about 6,000 to 18,000 miles per month in the vehicles.

"Most of the old Humvees that we just got rid of had a couple hundred thousand miles on them," Conner said. "We complete multiple engine and transmission replacements, so we are constantly busy.

"The vehicles will be brought in for an oil change, filter change, tire inspection and things of that nature," he said. "Once the mechanics are done with that, they'll bring the vehicles into the main shop."

If there are any additional problems, such as steering, engine, transmission, electrical or lighting, then the vehicle mechanics will repair or replace the damaged or worn out parts.

"Once that's done, the trucks may go to the tire shop, then they'll go through an annual emissions test to see if the vehicles are running well and not destroying our environment," Conner said.

"If there is any body work that needs to be done; we will look at it to see if there are any scratches, dents, bends or breaks in the body. Then we will send the vehicle to the body shop," he said. "Once that's completed, the mechanics will go back through customer service, out process the vehicle, then give it back to the customer."

The vehicle maintenance shop works on multiple squadrons' vehicles, but their main mission is supporting security forces.

"Our job is to support their mission and we do that by keeping their vehicles at 100 percent and available so they don't have to wait," Conner said. "They have a dire mission they need to get out on and we are going to make sure they have the vehicle they need."

When junior airmen first arrive to the vehicle maintenance shop, they are tasked with performing jobs such oil changes, filter changes, and pressure washing the vehicles.

"I like my job because it lets me learn a craft that I didn't know before and it'll help me in the long run," said Airman 1st Class Latrelle Jones, 341st LRS vehicle maintenance journeyman.

"As they progress and get more proficient in their jobs, we put them on more complicated jobs, such as pulling things off of engines, transmissions, alternators and starters," Conner said.

Driving Montana's back roads through the missile fields can make a blue truck look camouflaged which is why the maintenance shop pressure washes every vehicle that comes through.

"We want to make sure that once we finish the job; we clean it, take it for a test drive and verify that there aren't any leaks or issues," Conner said. "We try to get it out as clean as we got it or better."

Whether it's a full vehicle overhaul or simple tune up the maintenance shop supports the wing's mission every day.

"We are a non-stop shop every day. I work four 10-hour shifts a week and they get all 10 hours out of me every day," Conner said.

As the work day ends, the mechanics put their tools away, rinse the grime from under their nails, hang up their oil-stained coveralls, and flip off the lights--tomorrow brings a new day and another vehicle that's begging for a tune up.