Extreme car wash

By Senior Airman Brandon Kusek 2d Bomb wing Public Affairs

Every week many people spend an hour or more washing their car, shining the tires, cleaning the windows and vacuuming out trash. But what if your vehicle had a wingspan of 185 feet and was 159 feet long? It would take much longer - eight hours longer actually.
Airmen from the 2d Maintenance Squadron and 2d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron take on this huge task head on.
The "wash rack" as its called, is located on the north end of the flightline just past the last hangars. It may seem that one of the B-52s is just parked there, but look a little closer and you may see green-suited workers with water hoses and scrub brushes making the old giant look a little cleaner.
Airman 1st Class David Cates, an aircraft structural maintenance technician from the 2d MXS, said the reason the washes are done is to take dirt and other substances like soot off vital areas making it easier to see possible corrosion.
"People really despise the 'sailboats,' which are behind the engines, and the landing gear areas where dirt and dust are really caked on," he said.
Airman Cates added that the latrines on the aircraft must also be washed out.
Airman 1st Class Andrew Habecker, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Unit load crew technician, said he despises cleaning the landing gears.
"You cram yourself into this tiny area and just scrub and scrub and scrub," he said.
To keep the water and soap off their skin and uniforms, the Airmen wear protective suits similar to a rainsuit. It consists of a rubber jacket, rubber pants, rubber boots, rubber gloves, a face shield and goggles.
The suits are designed to cover everything from the neck down, which Sergeant Scheckels, 2d MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman, said is designed mainly to keep the soap off people's skin.
The sergeant added that even when temperatures are in the upper 80's it feels like 120 degrees inside the suits.
Because of this, when the 101 critical days of summer roll around, the wash rack team switches to night shifts beginning at midnight and 3 a.m. so they can still get the job done while preventing some heat related illnesses.
Because of how long it takes the 12-person crew, they normally wash two or three jets per week.
A normal crew consists of 13 Airmen, one of whom is a NCO and deemed the wash rack supervisor. Airmen are on a rotating schedule and once selected to wash are assigned to the detail for 30 days at a time.
Staff Sgt. Michael Mendoza, 11th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief and wash rack supervisor, said the process is quite simple. After covering up sensitive areas and plugging certain holes, the team suits up and loads its buckets with a special soap and set power washing hoses around where they will wash.
"When we start scrubbing, people go to an area they like or are good at," Sergeant Mendoza said. "The teams do a good job of cleaning fast and efficiently."
When the crew finishes, members of the 2d MXS structural maintenance shop inspect the aircraft and determine if its clean enough and if there is any corrosion.
"This is not like washing your car, that's kind of enjoyable. This is more in-depth - there is more you have to do," Sergeant Scheckels said.