USAF vehicle maintenance provides worldwide global power
By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 06, 2013
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Regardless of who someone is or where they live across the globe, nearly every human life has been directly impacted by one amazing invention; the motor vehicle.
Whether needing a ride to work, taking a bus somewhere, waiting for a delivery or needing an ambulance or fire truck, it doesn't take long to realize vehicles have been a crucial part of every life.
One group of dedicated professionals keep those precious machines running smooth-- vehicle maintainers.
"Air Force vehicle maintainers support every mission on every military base throughout the United States and worldwide," said Tech. Sgt. Van Ian Pestilos, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in-charge of fleet maintenance. "Regardless of whether it takes place in the air or on the ground, if a vehicle is involved, we are the Airmen responsible for it performing well so the mission is accomplished."
Vehicle maintainers have the unique responsibility of supporting both the ground and air missions.
"We support the fighter squadrons by utilizing our diverse vehicle fleet such as heavy equipment loaders, aircraft tow tractors, maintenance vans and refuelers," said Pestilos. "Along with supporting them we also provide the same expert maintenance for security forces and emergency response vehicles."
Pestilos explained the 366th Security Forces and Civil Engineering Squadrons are the units' two biggest customers.
"Those squadrons utilize their vehicles more than almost everyone else, and keeping their specific vehicle fleets in safe and serviceable condition is absolutely essential," he said. "Security forces, for example, uses their vehicles 24/7, accumulating 315,000 miles a year.
We have a constant and consistent maintenance schedule for them to ensure their important mission of keeping the base secure is fulfilled."
Along with ensuring their customers can fulfill their missions safely, vehicle maintainers demand the highest standards of safety for themselves.
"Safety is our number one priority in everything we do, not only for the Airmen, but also for the environment," said Pestilos. "We want to ensure we leave a positive mark here for everything by following our Air Force instructions and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to the letter. There is no room for error when it comes to these standards and we have NCO's who instill this in our Airmen daily."
That task can be quite a lot due to the diversity of vehicles these Airmen are responsible for maintaining.
"I try to assist in training the other Airmen in the shop as much as possible because my main goal is to keep every vehicle running safely at optimal performance," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Stroschein, 366th LRS material handling maintenance journeyman. "My specific area of expertise is the large loaders which move cargo and assist overseas deployment operations and missions. It's important training for these newer Airmen to expand their core vehicle maintenance knowledge. I also instill in them the importance of safely completing the job they are assigned."
Like all Air Force units, vehicle maintenance wasn't able to avoid the effects of budget cuts and other issues due to the sequestration.
"Some of our civilians had their hours cut back due to the budget cuts and that did affect us, however, vehicle maintenance continued as scheduled and all deadlines were met," said Pestilos. "Some of those guys have been doing this job for 30 to 40 years and things run really smooth when they are here. When those kinds of subject matter experts are not here, we feel it."
"Losing those mechanics off the floor because of the sequestration was difficult because they have so many years of knowledge and experience working on just about every single vehicle," he said. "The amount of one-on-one training hours they provide for the younger Airmen was noticed immediately. However, despite the adversity, we accepted the challenge and ensured all vehicles met their individual completion deadlines."
Mission failure is not an option for these professional Airmen.
"We keep every vehicle safe and serviceable for our fellow Gunfighters, because our mission is basically their mission," said Pestilos. "It can be tiresome turning wrenches every day; however, we understand how important our job is and utilize the latest training available to accomplish it safely, efficiently and promptly. We get dirty but the satisfaction of getting safe and dependable vehicles to the Airmen who need them is definitely worth it. The Air Force cannot fly, fight or win without expert vehicle maintainers."