MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. — Each day, convoys of huge armored vehicles drive from Malmstrom Air Force Base to the wing’s missile complex. Some missile sites are close by, while others are a three to four hour drive, one way. These vehicles are constantly put to the test on these long journeys through rough and, at times, dangerous terrain.
The 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron heavy equipment shop makes sure these vehicles are ready for the task at hand. Their job is to keep these vehicles maintained and running so other Airmen can complete the base’s mission of nuclear deterrence.
“It is critical to the mission if these vehicles are down for a long period of time,” said Airman 1st Class Darrick Banks, 341st LRS vehicle maintenance technician. “The vehicles we work on are crucial to all the Airmen in the missile field.”
In the month of August, the base’s Humvee and Bearcat armored vehicles spent more than 19,500 hours on the road. An average of 14 personnel at the heavy equipment shop upkeep these vehicles year-round, sometimes pulling 12-hour shifts with 24-hour days to get the job done.
“A couple of years ago we had an overhaul of new vehicles and upgrades, and we had to split into a day shift and night shift,” said Senior Airman Christopher Cagle, 341st LRS vehicle maintenance technician. “The night shift was strictly Humvees, prepping them with up-armor and getting them ready with all the new add-ons that came down. We spent the days bringing the Bearcats to improved safety standards.”
There are only three bases in the country that have the heavy equipment shop’s particular job. They also have a unique mobile maintenance team that receives numerous calls a day, sometimes five to 10 a day. Even through the long days of getting covered with oil and fuel the Airmen in the heavy equipment maintenance shop take pride in what they do.
“One job I had was with a wrecked Bearcat with a wheel missing, and just getting it fixed then driving it out was rewarding to me,” said Banks.
The shop does a lot of scheduled maintenance for security forces since their vehicles are always out in the missile field going through some rough road conditions and handling tough terrain.
“We have a security forces Bearcat coming in that needs an oil panel change, which you have to pull the motor off to get to it, making it my hardest job yet,” said Banks.
This being Cagle’s first base, he believes the morale in the shop is good because even with the long hours to get the job done, the rest of the base truly appreciates what they do.
“There are a lot of good people in the Air Force working here at the shop,” he said. “We work hard to make sure the base has its vehicles to carry out the mission.”