Vehicle maintainers keep Transit Center moving
By Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 04, 2011
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- It takes the work of several career fields to meet the Transit Center's mission of providing onward movement; however, without a qualified crew of vehicle maintainers it would be impossible to move troops downrange or return them home.
Vehicle maintainers at the Transit Center manage a fleet of more than 350 vehicles ranging from buses to refueling trucks and forklifts to aircraft de-icers.
Their job is to keep the operation running so people further downrange can get their jobs done, said Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Lebel, 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron chief.
A team of 30 maintainers from the total force of Guard, Reserve and active-duty Airmen keep the gambit of vehicles here running.
"The Guard brings different things to the plate because they have their outside jobs," said the chief with 28 years of service. "What this does is gives a bit of diversity to the field. They bring a lot to the fight. They really can help out the team effort."
The total force team faces the same challenges in keeping the mission moving as their counterparts throughout the area of responsibility.
"The most difficult part of the job is trying to get parts here," Lebel said. "Vehicles aren't like airplanes. All KC-135s have the same parts. With vehicles, there are so many different types of manufacturers and the Air Force has so many different contracts, virtually every one has different parts. All it takes is one year - you have a 1998 and a 1999 humvee, they will have different parts because technology changes."
If replacement parts are ordered, they take about two weeks to arrive.
"Sometimes we have vehicles down for weeks at a time for something that might be done in a day or two at homestation because they have to send parts to us from stateside," Lebel said. "If you get the wrong part for whatever reason then you just doubled the amount of time the vehicle will be down."
These vehicle maintenance Airmen take great pride in their role of supporting the onward movement mission, according to the chief.
"When they see their vehicles moving, that is the most rewarding part of their job," Lebel said. "For a refueling guy, he knows he just repaired something that is now out there pumping gas for records -- that is a rewarding thing for a refueling mechanic."
Tech. Sgt. Adam Heath inherited a broken-down M-series wrecker when he arrived here. Since May he has been working on the Transit Center's only tow truck capable of moving a disabled heavy equipment vehicle.
The most rewarding part of working on this is completing the starting system repair, said the 376th ELRS vehicle maintenance journeyman deployed here from the 151st Air Refueling Wing, Utah Air National Guard. "It was an electrical nightmare. I spent four or five days tracing down every little single wire to find out where the short was coming from. I found out the starter was shorted out which almost fried the whole truck."
In vehicle operations there is no lack of job satisfaction, according to Tech. Sgt. Darnell Roberts, the 376th ELRS vehicle management superintendent.
"The best part of the mission here is seeing firsthand the results of vehicle management's support role to the mission of the Transit Center," Roberts said. "Just yesterday, we returned a 60-K cargo loader back to aerial port flight and I just saw it driving down the flight line with a load of cargo to an aircraft heading downrange. Whether you're in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines or an allied force the Transit Center provides first-class service to service members going or returning from downrange.
"I always feel good that I can deploy and be a crucial part in the wing's success," said Roberts, deployed here from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. "This is why I joined the Air Force."