From the Frontlines: Senior Airman Matt Barker

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- With only two months in country, Senior Airman Matt Barker, 407th Air Expeditionary Support Squadron, from the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, to carry out his duties as a special vehicle maintenance journeyman for fire trucks and commercial vehicles.

The Airman left this Air Force Global Strike Command base April 27 for Ali Air Base, Iraq, where he performs vehicle maintenance activities on military and commercial design fire fighting vehicles and equipment. Activities include inspection, diagnostics, repair and rebuild of components and assemblies.

Airman Barker said he uses his knowledge of mechanical theory to apply the necessary repairs to correct deficiency with the fire department's vehicles. His skill helps maintain overall mechanical condition of the vehicles and equipment to keep the base protected.

"If vehicles are unserviceable, then the fire department is minus a vehicle and can slow down the response time of tending to a fire or plane crash," Airman Barker said as he explained the importance of his role.

He is also responsible for and assists with properly disposing hazardous waste materials.

"We collect and load the scrap metal onto our wrecker and take it to the scrap yard and unload," the Ohio local said. "I was the alternate safety representative for our group here and helped ensure safety in all areas before the new crew arrived. I've also done post attack reconnaissance where a team would go out after we've been attacked and search for unexploded ordnances."

Airman Barker's duties at home are similar to those in the area of responsibility, but his working environment is somewhat different there. He said he works longer hours and more hours are spent working outside.

"I also work on other vehicles ranging from Ford 150 to Ford vans, Dodge Dakota, refueling trucks and sweepers," he said. "I can work on pretty much any vehicle that is in the Air Force fleet, but if a fire truck is down then I have to work on that since I'm experienced and know more than the regular mechanics who don't specialize on those."

Before his shift, Airman Barker spends time at the fitness center, which has helped him lose more than 20 pounds.

He is also a member of the Airman's Council, a committee whose primary goal is to provide Airmen with open lines of communication to leaders and offer suggestions to help make improvements which contributes to the quality-of-life for Airmen.

Combined with his training and work ethic it's not uncommon for Airman Barker to step up in times of need, according to his NCO in charge.

"Airman Barker is one of those Airmen you can count on to get things done quickly, efficiently and safely, and for the most part you don't have to ask because he is already working the issue," said Staff Sgt. Joaquinn Lopez, NCO in charge of farm maintenance.
"Airman Barker is an all around go to guy, and he is a key piece in completing the mission on hand."

This is Airman Barker's third time being deployed, but it is his second time at Tallil, which the base is commonly referred to.

"Although I don't enjoy the heat or the sand, I do enjoy the experience of being deployed, the mission critical work I get to do, and the significance that goes along with it," Airman Barker said.

He said he is proud to be there especially for holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day.

While his impact to the mission is critical, he said he misses home, his family and his new bride.

"While here, I asked my beautiful [then] girlfriend, Christi, to marry me and we were married by proxy July 15," he said. "We stay in contact through e-mail and Internet chat. I miss her and look forward to being with her when I return to Whiteman."