Vehicle Maintenance keeps Team Whiteman rolling
By Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 18, 2020
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Many members of Team Whiteman drive government owned vehicles every day. As with any vehicle, they require periodic maintenance to keep them running smoothly.
The 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Maintenance Flight is responsible for ensuring Whiteman Air Force Base’s government owned vehicles are properly maintained.
Divided into several sections, the flight is responsible for the base’s fleet of approximately 700 vehicles.
“We maintain every vehicle in a safe and serviceable manner so everyone on base can continue their mission,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Stuer, 509th LRS special purpose section chief. “That can be everything from the bus that takes the pilots out to the aircraft, the armored vehicles protecting the base’s assets, the fuel trucks used to provide aircraft with fuel, and the construction equipment performing maintenance around base.”
Base safety is a major priority for vehicle maintenance, especially during the winter months. When snow and ice covers the base, vehicle maintenance plays an active role in ensuring the flight line and the roads are safe to drive on.
“The snow fleet is used to clear the snow and ice off the flight line during winter weather operations,” said Stuer. “The vehicles are utilized to pretreat certain areas prior to the snow fall and then clear the snow and ice after to ensure operations can continue during degraded conditions.”
When the base is closed for snow days, Airmen assigned to the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron snow fleet, and the vehicle maintenance Airmen come into work to clear the snow.
While the snow fleet is operational during the winter months, warmer seasons allow time for the maintainers to prepare the vehicles.
“During the summer, the snow fleet gets a seasonal rebuild done on it,” said Stuer. “That is where we go through and check every inch of the vehicle to find any repairs that need to be accomplished. We also perform all scheduled maintenance during this time to ensure the vehicles are completely ready for the winter and alleviating possible issues during their key mission season.”
Many of the vehicles around base are required throughout the year. Ranging from regular cars and trucks, to the specialized vehicles used by base agencies, ensuring the base’s vehicles are in their best shape possible allows Team Whiteman to support the B-2 Spirit mission safely.
One major part of the mission is base security. As America’s premier stealth bomber, vehicle maintenance ensures that the 509th Security Forces Squadron has the armored vehicles they need to carry out their mission of protecting the B-2 Spirit.
“The armor fleet on Whiteman is used for base defense and asset protection by 509th SFS,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Marlett Jr., 509th LRS low bay section chief. “We have a mix of Lenco Bearcat armored security vehicles and up armored Humvees. The men and women who maintain these vehicles strive to keep these vehicles on the road so that the base always has a strong security presence.”
The armor fleet has its own unique challenges due to the mission and their ability to protect the Airmen inside them.
“Working on the armor fleet is challenging and rewarding,” said Marlett. “The vehicles have heavy armor pieces that need to be removed to access different components which adds time during maintenance. Parts availability can be an issue, especially on older vehicles, because of their special nature. But, watching a truck leave the shop knowing it can go out and perform its mission is a satisfying feeling.”
Outside of the direct maintenance on vehicles, the fleet management and analysis office performs a variety of administration functions including coordinating with outside agencies, effective management of the budget and handling work orders.
“The team is doing great, and I am always impressed by their diligence to see a job well done,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Peggy Uglow, 509th LRS vehicle maintenance flight commander. “They put their best into every job they work to ensure safety and reliability are integrated into every vehicle that comes into our shop and is used to meet Whiteman’s mission.”
As technology improves on vehicles year by year Vehicle Maintenance Airmen are required to adapt to the changes in vehicle design and the needs of the Air Force.
“We service over 60 continuously evolving vehicle types as the fleet receives upgrades with the newest industry technology,” said Uglow. “This unique challenge presents our Airmen with opportunities to continually improve and learn new skills as they ensure the fleet's integrity is maintained. It is a privilege to work alongside my team as they excel throughout their careers.”
The Vehicle Maintenance Flight keeps Whiteman AFB’s vehicles in the best shape possible to support Team Whiteman and the B-2 Spirit mission ensuring essential functions such as snow removal, fueling the aircrafts, base security, and ensuring overall safety, while continuously working to adapt to new technology.