436th LRS vehicle maintenance shop prepares Dover AFB for winter operations

  • Published
  • By Mauricio Campino

As this year’s winter season approaches, the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron is working around the clock to ensure Team Dover’s fleet of snow vehicles are ready to keep the flight line and roads clear of ice and snow during the winter months. At Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, the cold winter weather lasts only part of the year, but recovering and preparing for inclement weather is a year-round mission.

These vehicles are key to preventing airlift mission stoppage during and after winter storms. Ensuring the flight line and mission-capable aircraft are clear of snow and ice reduces the risk of unsafe aircraft launches and touchdowns.

 In anticipation for the winter season, the 436th LRS Vehicle Maintenance shop performs a summer rebuild of more than 180 vehicles. This winterization of vehicles include mission-essential maintenance to 10 runway snow removal vehicles, 19 aircraft deicers and 13 support vehicles.

“Honestly, we’re always busy, but when the summer rebuild starts we just get busier.” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Downen, 436th LRS base maintenance shop supervisor.

The summer rebuild has three phases. In the first phase each vehicle undergoes an extensive, multipoint inspection to determine what repairs are needed. Thorough inspection of just a single vehicle can take one or two workdays.

 The second and longest phase is the problem-solving phase. Routine annual maintenance consists of replacement of filters, fluids, lubricants, hoses and window wiper blades. Vehicle maintenance is not just physical work. 

A large portion of the vehicle fleet are highly specialized vehicles and sourcing certain parts can stretch from days to weeks.

 “Sourcing parts is one of the biggest challenges we face,” said Downen. “It might be weeks before we get a quote back from a vendor.”

Scheduling maintenance times to align with part arrival times is just one way the staff uses their problem-solving skills to maximize productivity. The staff uses time management and meticulous planning to ensure a smooth workflow.

“We rely on strong communication and coordination with other units like the civil engineer and aircraft maintenance squadrons,” said Downen. “Since they’re the ones who actually operate the vehicles, they usually have good insight on what problems the vehicles have.”

The staff know that even a single snow-removal vehicle or deicer can have a negative effect on mission accomplishment at Dover AFB. Every problem identified in the spring must be corrected before each vehicle is deemed ready for winter.

 “These vehicles are completely checked out before they go out,” said Bill Nagle, 436th LRS heavy equipment diesel mechanic. “If anything is going to break down, you want it to happen here in the yard and not out there behind a plane. It’s pretty simple, if these vehicles don’t run, the planes don’t fly.”