Alaskan Adventure Blog 6
By Airman First Class Ashley Ramirez, 146th AW
/ Published June 15, 2011
Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska -- It is our last week here in Alaska and Alex and I are making some of our final rounds to all the Airmen that are working hard here at Elmendorf from the 146th. In the morning we headed back over to Vehicle Maintenance and checked in with some of our mechanics there. Lucky for us we got there just in time to watch them use a machine to lift the cab of a Security Forces vehicle off the frame and about seven feet up in the air. The vehicle was leaking oil towards the rear of the engine and without using this machine to lift the cab, it would have been extremely difficult to get to the problem area.
This is the second time this particular vehicle has been in the maintenance shop for the same oil leak and Captain Marc Hutcheson, with the Logistics Readiness Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing says that it is possible this vehicle has a head gasket that needs to be replaced. For those of you who know cars and do this type of things yourself, you know that's a project. For those of you who don't know cars, just know that will cost you a lot of money. Although the part itself is no more than $50, due the labor involved to get to the head gasket, it can cost almost two thousand dollars to fix at an auto body shop, said Hutcheson.
After watching the mechanics work on the vehicle for a bit, Alex and I headed outside to watch two of our Airmen work a de-icing truck. We walked into the parking lot and saw a huge truck with a giant boom and operator cab on the top. The cab had this thing on the front that looked like a rocket launcher and the operator was swinging the cab back and forth, periodically hitting the trigger to blast what looked like just air through the front of the launcher. Once the Airmen had completed their inspection, they let Alex and I take a 'ride.' It went so high, I tried not to act like I was scared but... I kind of was, just a little.
That afternoon Alex and I met up with the members of Air Terminal Operations and watched as they loaded pallets together. When we got there Airmen from the 146th as well as active duty members from Elmendorf were working together to get all the pallets that belonged to Travis Air Force Base together to ship back to them. Once the pallets were completely packaged, Tech. Sgt. Cenobio Alvarez told us that now we had to wait for the label for the package to be printed from GATES, or the Global Air Transportation Execution System. This label, to make things simple, is almost like an airline ticket for each pallet or package that is shipped through this warehouse. This label has the height, weight, dimensions, who packaged up the pallet and where it is going to written on the label. Without these labels, the person loading the plane would not know what goes where or what is being shipped.
Once the label was printed and attached the pallet, Alex and I watched as Airman First Class Ronald Navarro, with the direction of Staff Sgt. John Fratangelo moved the fork-lift to get the packaged-up pallets in the right position in the warehouse. Tech. Sgt. Alvarez said having a spotter and a look out when using a large piece of equipment is essential in the Air Force.
"Safety is paramount," Alvarez said. "People can get hurt or even killed. Working here you have blind spots, small corners, etc. That is why we are taught safety from day one."
As we were in the warehouse, we all got word that a plane had just landed carrying Soldiers and equipment back from a drop zone where they had been doing exercises. All of us jumped in the trucks and rushed down the flight line to help unload equipment. As all the soldiers exited the plane in two single file lines (they were also doing an ERO... remember... an Engines Running Offload) a Humvee was being unloaded from the center. Tech. Sgt. Alvarez began to guide the Humvee off the plane and others each began doing their own part to get the Soldiers out safely.
After we were back at the warehouse, we stood there for a little bit and just talked to one another and chatted about the TDY and what we had learned throughout the last two weeks. Everyone seemed to have a good time and meet new people. Tech. Sgt. Alvarez said that this particular TDY was important to their unit for several reasons.
"This is so important for us because, look around," he said. "We have brand new Airmen that need this hands-on training for their CDC's, Airmen who are cross-training into our field from other areas and some who are preparing for possible upcoming deployments."
Speaking with Tech. Sgt. Alvarez and the other Airmen from ATO really made me realize that what these Airmen are learning here in Alaska is vital to the Air Force mission. Some of the Airmen learning new skills up here may be deploying soon and this great training will help ensure that they are prepared the best they can be so we can get the job done and come home safely.