173FW vehicle maintenance Airmen key part of firefighting effort

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The 173rd Fighter Wing supplied more than 100 Airmen comprising four teams to help battle the worst wildfire season on record, in mid-September.

When the request for help from the Governor arrived one of the challenges was supplying enough vehicles to ferry the Airmen around the state to the hardest hit areas.

“The call was for 50 vehicles as soon as possible,” said Master Sgt. James Childs, the fleet manager for the 173rd Fighter Wing. “From the time that call came in, I was making phone calls within 15 minutes and we had the 32 vehicles delivered to vehicle maintenance within probably an hour-and-a-half.” 

Those 32 vehicles represented every available vehicle, short of the bare necessity to continue the flying training mission said Childs, who worked with offices around the base to identify cars and trucks.

It is also required that these vehicles get a thorough inspection prior to the lengthy road trip, and each one did prior to delivery less than two hours after the initial request.

Another aspect of deploying these vehicles around the state, is taking care of them when the inevitable maintenance issues arise.

Master Sgt. John Walling, the vehicle maintenance floor supervisor, made several trips to the team based in Roseburg who were manning traffic control points to fix minor but important issues on six different vehicles. He said it provided a really good learning experience for the most junior member of the vehicle maintenance team, Airman Basic Adrian Alvarez.

“It was real nice, especially having a younger Airmen who just got back from tech school,” Walling said. “We were able to sign him off on some training tasks so it was perfect timing—of course we could have done without the fires.”

The list of repairs included fixing truck radio power supplies, several flat tires from a screw and bad valve stem, and diagnosing several check engine and check airbag lights.

For the Roseburg team having operational vehicles was critical to their mission.

“These vehicles are being used for traffic control duties at control points,” said Childs. “So in a way, our vehicles are just as important as the members who drove them out of here.”