An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Crossing into the blue: Fleet Services Flight cleans aircraft, pumps “blue juice” to ensure comfort for passengers, aircrew

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Nicole Langley
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While theirs may be one of Dover's dirtier jobs, the members of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron Fleet Services Flight work tirelessly to ensure all aircraft at Dover - regardless of origin - are clean and serviceable for the aircrew and passengers.

While removing trash from the aircraft, preparing all outbound aircraft with pillows, blankets and other necessary items, and delivering all passenger and crew meals might not seem too dirty, this section is also responsible for cleaning and servicing all lavatories ... a job that can certainly be a little messy at times.

"Fleet Services is an integral part of the Aerial Port operations and more importantly the success of the 436th Airlift Wing," said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Branum, 436th APS Air Transportation manager.

Imagine getting on a very long flight that originated overseas and was full of passengers, said the chief. When you boarded the aircraft the aisles and seating areas were full of trash and the lavatories were full as well. Also, imagine the long flight without any type of meal available. That is the scenario if Fleet Services was not in the picture.

Although their jobs may be less than glamorous, the Airmen working in Fleet Services are provided unique opportunities not available to many others on base.

"We get to touch every aircraft that arrives and departs Dover Air Force Base regardless of whether or not it is here to pick up cargo or just stopping over, explained 2nd Lt. Eric Wicklund, Fleet Services Flight commander.

The flight has worked on everything from C-5s to Marine helicopters and foreign military aircraft.

Servicing foreign aircraft also allows Dover's Fleet Services team members the opportunity to work with military members from countries all over the world.

"I've been able to work with and meet many members of foreign military forces while working at Fleet," said Christopher Wilson, a civilian in the 436th APS Fleet Services Flight and reservist in the 512th Airlift Wing's 46th APS. "That is something I would not have gotten to do in other career fields."

Flight members rotate working the clean side of Fleet - delivering meals, pillows and blankets - and working the dirtier side - cleaning the interior of the aircraft, removing trash, and cleaning and servicing the lavatories.

With the radio call sign "Fleet 10," those working the dirty side of Fleet Services have their work cut out for them.

When Fleet 10 gets the call to service an aircraft - regardless of time or temperature - they quickly head out in one of the flight's Latrine Servicing Trucks in teams of two or three. Clearly marked 'Lavatory Service' on the side of the truck, there's no mistaking their mission: to drain the aircraft's lavatories and refill them with fresh, clean "blue juice."

Donned in blue coveralls, commonly known as 'blue suits,' latex gloves and plastic face shields - to protect themselves in the event of a spill - the teams carefully back the LST up next to the aircraft and prepare to open the hatch, behind which is the holding tube with all of the lavatory's waste.

Nearly all members in the flight would agree this is the riskiest part of the job.
"The biggest challenge we face daily is avoiding what we call getting 'dumped on,' said Lieutenant Wicklund. "When this happens, it becomes a game of Russian roulette as to whether everything stays in the holding tube when the hatch is opened to hook up the drain hose."

Fortunately, getting 'dumped on' doesn't happen very often, flight members explained, but it is always a possibility.

"It can be dirty work, but if you work with experienced people who know what they are doing, it's not a bad job," explained Mr. Wilson. "People sometimes make fun of Fleet and laugh at what we have to do on Fleet 10.

"I personally think it is what you make it," he said. "It can be the best job in the Port if you want it to be."

Mr. Wilson isn't alone in focusing on the positive aspects of Fleet. A common sentiment echoed throughout the flight is the people are what make the job positive.

"The best part about working in the section is the people we work with," said Airman 1st Class Douglas Kellogg, 436th APS Fleet Services.

As flight commander, Lieutenant Wicklund agreed that the best part of his job is coming to work everyday and working with an outstanding group of Airmen, who despite the often monotonous, dirty work they perform day in and day out, always have a positive attitude and always work hard to get the job accomplished.

While Fleet Services might not be the most well-known section on base, the next time Dover Team members fly aboard an aircraft departing from or transiting through here - either as aircrew members or passengers - remember the vital role Fleet Services played in making the trip a little more comfortable.