Thursday, December 28, 2017

Airmen Help Maintain Airfield Integrity in Alaska

By Air Force Senior Airman Cassie Whitman, 354th Fighter Wing

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska, Dec. 28, 2017 — When thinking about flightline operations and how to keep a resilient airfield here, most people think about the snow equipment clearing the flightline, the maintainers aiding each aircraft in taking off or the pilots flying the aircraft.

What most people don’t know, is that without the expertise of the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s vehicle maintenance airmen, none of that would happen.

While their usual day-to-day operations include fixing broken construction equipment, the 354th LRS heavy shop gears up all year to prepare for snow fleet maintenance in the harsh Alaskan winter.

Performing Vital Maintenance

“In the spring, we bring every piece of snow equipment into the shop and they go through summer rebuild,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Zack Ingram, a 354th LRS mission generating vehicle equipment maintenance craftsman. “We conduct the yearly scheduled maintenance and fix any problems that may have come up throughout the year.”

In the summer, the heavy shop airmen switch to 12-hour work days to ensure they complete their summer rebuilds, which also gives them an opportunity to perform preventative maintenance on the snow fleet.

Once winter arrives, the heavy shop has a night shift, ensuring they have 18 hours of full coverage for equipment that may break at night. They also have 24-hour standby, which safeguards maintenance coverage in case of an emergency break.

“If there are no vehicles, the base can’t function,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacie Coplin, a 354th LRS mission generating vehicle equipment maintenance journeyman. “If there is no snow fleet, you can’t clear the snow, planes can’t take off and the roads won’t be cleared for people to drive to work.”
Heavy shop Airmen help maintain airfield integrity
Air Force vehicle equipment maintenance journeymen Airman 1st Class Jacie Coplin and Airman 1st Class Kyle Duhon, both assigned to the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, work on the underbody of a snowplow at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Dec. 6, 2017. The snowplow was brought to the shop for a minor repair, but while fixing it the mechanics discovered it needed a total rebuild and a new paint job. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman

Pride in Doing Good Work

The airmen use this knowledge as self-motivation to always get the job done, and Ingram said most of the airmen in the shop are intrinsically motivated and seek to do good work all the time.

“We have a job to do and if we don’t get it done, then no one else can do their job,” Coplin said. “We have people relying on us, and that’s what makes me want to push as many vehicles out as I can and continue doing preventative maintenance.”

Even with the skills to fix every type of vehicle from a law-enforcement vehicle to a bulldozer, the biggest challenge these airmen face is time. It takes time to diagnose the problem of each piece of equipment brought in. If there isn’t something physically falling off of the vehicle, there is a troubleshooting process that takes place.

“Diagnosing a problem really depends on each vehicle itself and who manufactured it,” Ingram said. “It can be as simple as a burned out light bulb, all the way to a broken ball bearing in a transmission.”

Whether they know what’s broken or have to troubleshoot the problem, whether they are working at 8 a.m. or 10 p.m., or if they have to face the snow head-on for a mobile call on the flightline at 3 a.m., the 354th LRS heavy shop airmen are an integral part in maintaining a resilient airfield and base.

Face of Defense: Airman Builds Medical Relationships in Vietnam

By Jonathan Bell, 78th Air Base Wing

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga., Dec. 28, 2017 — An Air Force physical therapist stationed here was one of 50 U.S. team members who recently spent more than two weeks in Tam Ky,

“Each day we bused out to a government community center where we provided family health, pediatric care and physical therapy assistance and dental care,” said Maj. (Dr.) Cody Butler, commander of the 78th Medical Group Clinical Medicine Flight.

“We would start seeing patients at about 7:30 in the morning and ran all day long,” Butler said.

Humanitarian Assistance Engagements

His efforts were part of Operation Pacific Angel Vietnam 2017 -- the last of four humanitarian assistance engagements that made up PACANGEL 17.

The program, which has been going on for a decade now, ensures that the militaries of various countries in the Pacific region are able to work together should a humanitarian assistance need arise. One of Robins Air Force Base’s physicians was given the opportunity to take part in the program, which is typically only attended by members of U.S. Pacific Command.

“I saw between 50 and a hundred patients a day,” Butler said. “To put that in perspective, I see about 10 to 15 a day while working at Robins.”

Building Relationships

The overall goal of PACANGEL was to try and build international relationships with the people of Vietnam. In addition to medical care, the team was able to go on a few evening excursions and experience the country outside of the treatment areas.

“It was interesting to see things like memorials and Viet Cong tunnels from their standpoint, where everything was, ‘The war against the Americans,’” Butler said. “So it was interesting seeing this communist country with statues and pictures of their leader Ho Chi Min everywhere as we’re trying to break the ice with these people.”

Butler said he interacted with some of the local Vietnamese physicians.

“In Vietnam, physical therapy is not well utilized -- people can’t afford it,” he said. “So, being able to teach these physicians some techniques and tricks of my trade, and then seeing them try it on patients, it was really neat to see them now have another option of care to provide to their patients.”

PACANGEL 17 conducted humanitarian assistance engagements in Bogo City and San Remigio, Northern Cebu Province, Philippines; Northern and Western Divisions, Fiji; and Gorkha, Nepal.

Butler said that by participating in humanitarian missions such as this, the Air Force is able to reinforce its capabilities to deliver assistance to areas that need it.
“You typically think of the pilots or launching satellites as making the difference,” he said. “But even us medics, we’re there to soften the hearts of the people and provide a service that only we could offer.”