DELAWARE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. --
From John Deere Gators to a 38.5 ton P-23 crash truck, the mechanical wizardry of the 166th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s (LRS) vehicle maintenance section something to behold. Tasked with maintaining every wheeled vehicle on base, the Airmen of 166th LRS rely on their mechanical training and troubleshooting skills to keep all the 166th Airlift Wing’s 99 vehicles on the road. With expertise in many different systems – gasoline and diesel engines, electrical and hydraulic systems, transmissions and differentials – the vehicle maintenance section is ready for whatever gremlins come their way.
“What’s unique for the people who work in our section is one day they could literally be working on a Chevy Impala, and the next hour they could be working on a tractor trailer or a big industrial snow blower,” explains Chief Master Sgt. Shane Hummel, the 166th LRS vehicle fleet manager.
Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Parr, vehicle maintenance superintendent further expounds, “It’s challenging because of the different types of vehicles we have, whether it’s a small pickup with a gas engine to a Cummins or Detroit diesel. Each vehicle has its own set of issues and troubleshooting. It really broadens our knowledge of being able to understand both.”
Some of the vehicle categories consist of fire apparatus and towing vehicles, including bobtail, MB4s, MB2s, and aircraft servicing vehicles such as deicers. Also, the fleet contains tractor-trailers, loaders, dump trucks, backhoes, runway snowblowers, wreckers, buses, high-reach bucket trucks and a few Humvees.
Aviation fuel trucks have a unique set of requirements. The wing’s maintenance garage has an extra bay with special drains built into the floor to contain a possible fuel leak, or worse, a tank rupture.
To be proficient in an extensive array of vehicles and systems, Airmen never cease training. The unit employs a number of civilian mechanics who provide on-site training. When funding is available, Airmen travel to Logistics Readiness University (LRU) in Savannah, Georgia where they take classes in refuelers, fire trucks, and any of the latest technologies.
“When we received the new P-23 Stryker truck, they [LRU] sent an individual who essentially went through the whole truck – all the components - with our mechanics,” said Parr.
With a manning document that comprises three full-time technicians and two Active Guard Reservists (AGRs), as well as eight guard-status Airmen, the unit keeps even the oldest vehicles on the road, some of which are of 1980’s vintage. The lifecycle of base pickup trucks and vans is approximately 20 years. On heavy equipment, depending on maintenance, it could be as high as 30 years. At the 20-year mark, National Guard Bureau (NGB) will send notification that these vehicles have reached the end of their lifecycles.
“They perform a cost-benefit analysis in their decision making,” said Parr. “So, if an older vehicle has low maintenance costs, it will be ‘pushed down’ on the priority list.”
With 99 vehicles to maintain and a plethora of possibilities to challenge them, the Airmen of the 166th LRS vehicle maintenance shop must be jacks-of-all-trades and masters of all. The mission of the 166th Airlift Wing is to provide world-class tactical airlift capability to the state and the nation. A functioning fleet of support vehicles is key to completing that mission.