Vehicle maintenance keeps Nellis ‘rolling’

The smell of motor oil fills the air as grease covered mechanics survey the garage full of vehicles waiting to be inspected or repaired.

Vehicle maintainers assigned to the 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., spend their days ensuring the extensive vehicle fleet on base is maintained and mission ready at all times.

“If there’s anything unique about Nellis, it’s the environment,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Ruggerio, a 99th LRS vehicle maintenance special purpose mechanic. “Nellis is a huge training base and we have one of the largest vehicle fleets in the Air Force. There’s so much going on here that you get a lot of opportunities to train on different types of equipment.”

There are eight flights of vehicle maintenance Airmen, who manage approximately 350 work orders per month. Some of the vehicles the squadron maintains include fire trucks and refueling vehicles. The squadron also houses a tire shop and body shop.

Senior Airman Cora Burden inspects vehicle management’s parts inventory on June 30, 2020, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Vehicle mechanics are responsible for diagnosing component malfunctions and replacing or repairing parts as necessary. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Kuhn)

“My shop has an immediate impact on flightline operations because nothing on the flightline moves without the vehicles that we repair and maintain,” said Ruggerio.

Similarly, vehicle maintenance’s refueling department is directly responsible for ensuring the refueling vehicles are prepared to perform day-to-day operations as well. Without their support, jets and other aircraft would be unable to receive the necessary fuel needed to fly.

Base ground and flight operations rely on vehicle maintenance to ensure operations around base never falter.

“If a firetruck isn’t working it could shut down the flightline,” said Ruggerio. “It’s instances like that, which show the impact we have on Nellis.”

Due to the diversity of their mission, vehicle maintenance Airmen must be familiar with the multiple different vehicles that are required for the base to operate safely and securely.

“As a part of the general-purpose shop, we’re trained on a wide variety of vehicles,” said Senior Airman Ciara Cobb, a 99th LRS Vehicle Maintenance general purpose mechanic. “Some of the most common vehicles are flightline transportation vehicles, security forces vehicles and ambulances.”

In addition to ensuring mission capability, proper vehicle maintenance can boost morale amongst the Airmen on base working in harsh conditions, said Cobb.

Roy Broomfield, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron, special purpose vehicle maintenance apprentice, greases the joints of a special purpose heavy vehicle on June 30, 2020, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. From gasoline and diesel engines, to hydraulic and air systems, the Airmen of vehicle management keep the Nellis mission running. (Air Force photographs by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Kuhn)

“If it weren’t for us making sure the flightline vehicles were up and running, Nellis’ maintainers wouldn’t be able to get around the flightline or be able to cool off in a vehicle,” said Cobb.

A working vehicle for maintainers is imperative because it not only provides shelter from the surrounding environment, it also makes getting to and from destinations more bearable in the extreme heat conditions distinct to Nellis, said Cobb.

“Another major component of our shop is the maintenance of the security forces vehicles,” said Cobb. “Through our maintenance, the 99th Security Forces Squadron is able to effectively patrol the base and respond to emergencies as needed.”

Cobb said despite the fact that Nellis has one of the largest vehicle fleets in the Air Force, the work flow for operations is uninterrupted.

“There’s never a steady number of vehicles coming through the shop,” said Cobb. “Our ops tempo changes depending on what’s going on base. If there’s an exercise running, our ops tempo increases. The more vehicles that are used, the more wear and tear it will put on a vehicle.”

Once the hood of a vehicle is opened, it is the job of the vehicle maintainer to find all discrepancies and fix them.

Senior Airman Gabriel Ortiz-Garcia, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fleet management and analysis apprentice, inspects tools on June 30, 2020, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Proper accountability of tools and supplies is an important part of vehicle management’s responsibility of keeping the vehicles and special equipment for five wings and 52 tenant units running. (Air Force photographs by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Kuhn)

“We maintain a vehicle from bumper to bumper,” said Cobb. “Making sure everything is working, all moving components are moving and if anything that is supposed to be stationary stays put.”

In fact, Cobb said their inspections are so thorough that a simple oil change can quickly turn into a major maintenance order when vehicles are turned in.

“There’s so much more that goes on in our maintenance process than most people know,” said Ruggerio. “We can find all types of leaks, electrical issues or simple stuff in the interior that we need to fix.”

The attention to detail and amount of laborious tasks that the Nellis vehicle maintenance team executes directly contributes to operation mission success and safety according to Ruggerio.

“We’re able to contribute to such a large part to Nellis because of our ability to put out safe and serviceable vehicles in a timely and effective manner,” said Ruggerio. “It’s something that we, as a team, are extremely proud of.”

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