Alaskan Adventure Blog 4
By Airman First Class Ashley Ramirez, 146AW
/ Published June 10, 2011
Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska -- Alex and I are about halfway through our first week here in Alaska; we have been here for five days now. We have been getting into a rhythm of what to do and who to see, but there are still a few little speed bumps along the way. We have been unable to get a steady source of internet access and unfortunately for us, had to spend a part of the morning trying to use a Starbucks Wi-Fi hotspot in the middle of the BX to send out our stories. I guess there is always something in the military. My something is not having internet and having to spend my morning at a bistro table in Starbucks. Darn.
Once we fixed our internet issue, we met up with Vehicle Maintenance from the Logistics Readiness Squadron. We got a tour of the large warehouse that housed both guard and active duty members and met most of the guard office. The members from the 146th showed us what vehicles they had been working on while here at Elmendorf. There were several large dump trucks that were getting some general tune-up service type stuff as well a fire truck that to me looked more like a monster truck. I guess the worse the weather gets, the bigger and badder the trucks look. Walking around the cars I noticed that all of the vehicles in the shop had extremely large tires; most were as tall as I was. Well, almost.
Outside we were shown the snow plows and trucks that were getting worked on by our Airmen. Staff Sgt. Jeff Strong, a mechanic for the 146th, told us anything and everything about these vehicles. We were told how the snow plows use different engines for different components of the machine, how much weight each truck can carry, and what pieces needed to be taken off for transport. I felt like I was in snow-blowing 101. They don't offer that class in Bakersfield. We also got to watch Senior Airman Tobias Burrier as he welded back together some pieces of a latch from the dump truck. He said that due to the tremendous weight the snow that gets plowed and put into the vehicles, the back latch had cracked under the pressure.
There was a lot of action going on inside of the shop that Alex and I got to see as well. There was a large dump truck parked inside that needed to have some of the tires changed. Now, changing a tire on a vehicle might not sound too difficult, but changing one on an industrial dump truck is not the same as changing one on my 4-Runner back at home. Not that I ever do that either, but you know what I mean. In order for us (and by us I mean them) to change this tire, it took two Airmen, several pieces of equipment and ear plugs! I learned that the reason for these tires being changed were that the chains from the winter put a lot of damage on the rubber, and wore them down. We also learned that chains are not allowed on this base around the flight line due to the FOD it creates, which can damage the fighter jets' engines.
After watching Sr. Airman Burrier take off several lug nuts from the front tire, he turned to me and said "Do you want to try it?" I thought to myself for a second then yelled "UUH YEAH!" They gave me the protective glasses and made sure my ear plugs were secure then they handed me this loosener gun thing that took off the lug nuts (I found out later that it was called an impact gun, but whatever). Burrier and Strong explained, "Ok, put this around the lug nut, and push this trigger here, then it should come off." Ok, I thought, this shouldn't be that difficult, right? The first pull of the trigger and I jumped as air shot out from the side of gun. I took off the lug nut a little fast and it spun off from inside the rim and rolled under the tire next to me. Oops. I turned around and see the two mechanics laughing hysterically and waving for me to continue. Perhaps, I was just cheap entertainment for them or I was just super awesome-- I'm not sure, but I finished the entire tire. After the first two or three lug nuts it really wasn't that hard and I got the hang of it pretty fast. I was so good at taking off the lug nuts, I actually finished the entire truck and the maintenance guys went to lunch! I'm just kidding, they must have heard about my clumsiness because I was heavily supervised around all that machinery for the rest of the day. Either way, I still felt for a little bit like I was the Mike Rowe (from the show "Dirty Jobs") of the Air Force.