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Ensuring Team Barksdale has quality vehicles

By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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The 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Allied Trades section ensures government-owned vehicles operated by Team Barksdale members are of the highest quality and stay mission ready.

Vehicles are evaluated every 18 months. Repairs are conducted frequently to extend the vehicles' lives and make them suitable for the mission.

"The Allied Trades section conducts frame and body repairs to include: upholstery, paint, glass and tires," said Tech. Sgt. Vincent St. Hilaire, 2 LRS Allied Trades section NCO in charge. "We re-upholster and refurbish a lot of the vehicles. We do a paint complete, where Airmen strip a vehicle to its steel to reprime and repaint it."

Vehicles over time need to be checked out for preventative maintenance.

"Corrosion control is the main reason why we conduct these repairs," St. Hilaire said. "Since it rains a lot, water may seep into the vehicle and ruin it. Some older vehicles have wood side panels, and if water were to seep into there, there is a possibility the vehicle could collapse."

Corrosion occurs when chemical reactions start to deteriorate the metal parts of vehicles. Rust is another common issue the Allied Trades Airmen face.

To alleviate this issue, Airmen strip the vehicle down to repaint it. This includes sanding, repriming and then painting. All of the accoutrements must be taken off which includes mirrors, glass, fender flares and anything that is bolted or screwed to the vehicle.

"We have our own paint system which is equivalent to what someone would find at a local vendor," St. Hilaire said. "We can match any original equipment manufacturer mix with our own paints and use them with our own paint booths."

Louisiana weather and corrosion aren't the only factors that keep Allied Trades Airmen busy.

Since the average age for each vehicle is more than 10 years, many parts can't be bought or found, according to St. Hilaire.

"We have to fabricate parts if they are not available," he said. "By fabricating our own parts in house, we save $400 to $500 per vehicle."

Keeping GOVs mission ready requires every Allied Trades Airman to have proper knowledge and training to perform each task.

"The newer Airmen perform smaller jobs like replacing door panels, changing light bulbs and sewing seats," said Airman 1st Class Kenneth Bates, 2 LRS Allied Trades section apprentice. "As a brand new Airman performs a smaller job, they watch and learn from the seasoned mechanics on how the more complicated jobs are done."

Some tasks require more than one Airman to do, such as removing a heavy door or putting on a windshield, so teamwork and cooperation is a must.

"Teamwork is needed in this career field because it enables us to do our jobs efficiently," Bates said. "By having everyone do their part, the task is completed without any problems. One person being out of the equation can make a huge difference and make a job take longer."

Responsible for more than 700 vehicles, this small shop relies on each other to be successful.

"Our shop is minimally manned," St. Hilaire said. "We average five Airmen who are responsible for maintaining such a large space and the constant influx of vehicles. The shop needs to be maintained on a daily basis."

Cleanliness goes beyond just making sure the workplace looks good. All items and equipment must be accounted for.

If an item is missing, it must be found or we can't give that vehicle back to the customer. A vehicle that has a piece of equipment or an item stuck inside of it must be retrieved even if it means taking the vehicle apart.

Piece by piece, the 2 LRS Allied Trades section ensures Airmen are not operating faulty vehicles.

"We try to provide the best vehicle possible to our customers," St. Hilaire said. "Our goal is to give our customers vehicles that are as close to the original as possible. If the Airmen operating the vehicle take pride in what they are driving, they are going to take pride in the job they do."