HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Tucked away in a corner of Holloman AFB is a small shop that keeps trucks moving, aircraft flying and mission critical equipment running around base.
The 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron refueling maintenance shop consists of three Airmen that are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the base’s 18 refueling vehicles.
The shop’s mission is to keep enough vehicles and pumps running to supply fuel to all the aircraft on the flightline as well as equipment around base.
“We go one day at a time here,” said Senior Airman Tyler Lee Bordner, 49th LRS mission generating vehicle and equipment maintenance journeyman. “Somedays you come to work knowing exactly what you will be working on. On other days two or three things get broken and we have to prioritize.”
The high demands of the job keep the team constantly working, whether it’s replacing broken parts on a vehicle, diagnosing vehicle problems or general vehicle upkeep.
“We deal with the 49th LRS petroleum, oils and lubricants flight (our customers) on a daily basis because we are attached to them,” said Tech. Sgt. Mario Garcia, 49th LRS fire truck and refueling maintenance non-commissioned officer in charge. “This means that they are continuously in and out of our shop with all kinds of minor maintenance repairs while we are trying to work on one of their downed vehicles.”
According to Bordner, the shop is a high pace, learn-as-you-go environment.
“The other difficulty that we often face is the lack of training for these types of vehicles, in particular the pumping system,” said Garcia. “Sure, all pumping systems are similar, but the way they are controlled and the various sensors, regulators and actuators that are throughout the entire system are difficult to troubleshoot or even know how they are supposed to work without training. Most of what we learn, we learn from hands on training and using mechanical experience and knowledge that can be applied.”
The hard part about being such a small team is that almost everything the team does is a two person job that, for safety reasons, requires use of the "buddy system." This makes it difficult for the three-person shop to work on more than one truck at a time. Personnel shortages throughout the Air Force have made situations like this all-too-prevalent, but they accomplish the mission safely regardless.
While the lack of manpower often adds difficulty to the job, it also makes for a cohesive working shop.
“Although working with such a small group imparts a lot of responsibilities on each of us, it is a benefit in that we know each other and the way we work a lot better than with a larger team,” said Garcia. “We are a lot closer as a team and work great together.”
Even though the team is small and constantly taking on work, they stay optimistic knowing that they directly impact the Air Force’s mission.
“I think we all agree that the most rewarding part of our job is when we are out and about on base and we happen to see one of the refuelers headed towards the flightline to fill an aircraft,” said Garcia. “We know that we keep that thing doing its job and keep jets in the air.”