Dirty Jobs - Yokota’s Vehicle Maintenance
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- This is the third article in a series focusing on and recognizing the 'Dirty Jobs' done by Yokota Airmen.
In football, worn cleats, scratched and dented helmets and grass stained jerseys are all signs of hard work. They're marks that you gave it your all and left everything you had on the field. Mechanics have their own tells; oil-stained t-shirt, hands covered in grease and steel-toed boots that linger with the smell of gasoline.
Airmen of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance shop sport these features as they work around the clock to ensure the upkeep of all government vehicles on base.
"Our mission is to keep a safe and serviceable fleet to enable others to complete their mission," said Staff Sgt. Eric Beckham, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron fleet management and analysis craftsman. "This involves providing regular maintenance to ensure the longevity of the assets."
From Humvees and 10-ton tow tractors to pickup trucks and sedans, the vehicle maintenance shop services them all.
"If it has a government plate, we put our hands on it," said Airman 1st Class Austin Beckham, 374 LRS vehicle maintenance apprentice.
With 87 Airmen and civilians, the shop operates three specialized vehicle maintenance sections: firetruck maintenance, material handling equipment and general purpose vehicle maintenance. Firetruck maintenance services each of the Yokota Fire Station firetrucks. The material handling equipment services assets to include vehicles like forklifts and aircraft loaders. Lastly, the general purpose maintenance section services everything that doesn't fall into the other two categories.
"We have a scheduled maintenance plan for every vehicle on base," Eric said. "Typically vehicles come in for maintenance at least once a year; however, that number can rise depending on how the vehicle is utilized."
If a problem with a vehicle occurs, Austin noted that it's in everyone's best interest if the issue is brought to vehicle maintenance immediately.
"If the check engine light comes on and it's not addressed immediately, that could potentially turn a small issue into a large one," Austin said. "It not only costs more time and money to repair, but also puts peoples' safety at risk."
Maintaining vehicles here in Yokota provides a unique challenge as a large portion of the assets are Japanese. This introduces a prominent language barrier as the assets' technical orders are in Japanese as well.
"We overcome this challenge each time by relying on our fellow Japanese coworkers for translation and technical support," Eric said. "Together we make a great team."
Another unique challenge that 374 LRS vehicle maintenance Airmen face stems from their geographic location. Many times, repairing an American vehicle requires parts that are solely located the U.S. In such an instance, refurbishing the vehicles and reintroducing it back into the fleet takes much longer that it would normally take in the states.
"Even with the unique challenges we face, we're still able to provide a 72.9 percent of all the assets we receive are back in the customers' hands within 24 hours," Erick said.
The vehicle maintenance shop's first priority is supporting the base's flying mission. Aircraft maintainers, crew chiefs and many more flightline Airmen depend on vehicle maintenance to accomplish their mission. From moving a C-12 Huron into a hanger to loading up a C-130 Hercules with equipment, the vehicles maintained by the 374 LRS vehicle maintenance shop ensure that the mission gets done.