News: Experts behind the wheel: Vehicle operators stand ready
Story by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - If it has four wheels, starts, stops and steers, they can probably drive it.
The 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations flight controls more than 80 vehicles to help Eielson support its day-to-day missions and keep the planes in the sky during RED FLAG-Alaska.
“We could be picking up parts with a tractor trailer or moving snow one day to driving a distinguished visitor or pulling a government vehicle out of the snow the next,” said Senior Airman Gregory Bloomquist, 354th LRS vehicle operator. “We complete a huge spectrum of tasks each day and never know what’s next.”
Bloomquist said with Eielson hosting so many nations during exercises, transporting dignitaries can become one of the most important and rewarding jobs on base.
“We may be the first impression of the base and our leadership,” he said. “Making sure our vehicles are clean, running well, and drivers are in top shape to operate is imperative, that way we are the first shiny penny each person sees as they step off a plane or out of the airport.”
Even though first impressions last forever, some of the more last-minute, urgent needs caused by winter weather or dry summers can become first priority within moments.
“Snow, ice and extremely cold weather means good business for this sort of thing,” said Bloomquist. “Sometimes it can be airmen or soldiers far out on a training range, but we have to pack up, make a plan and get important assets back on the road.”
Challenges can arise even with the wealth of experience compiled among the more than 30 operators in the flight who work in three shifts operating 24 hours a day.
“Vehicles break, which means an essential tool is out of commission,” said Master Sgt. William Clark, 354th LRS vehicle operations superintendent. “That doesn’t mean the mission doesn’t have to get done. We adapt, overcome and figure a way to get the task at hand done.”
As the winter season creeps to an end, RED FLAG will quickly become the focus and the workload for the vehicle operations flight will increase exponentially.
“At the drop of a hat, we are ready,” Clark said. “Last year it was forest fires that brought challenges, this year we know we will be supporting several exercises. Either way, no matter what the need is, we are here to support the base and get the mission done. No matter what time it is and no matter where or what we have to drive, we’re ready.”