262-car garage: LRS prepares for winter

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

Most families dread the harsh winter months and the preparation required to ensure their vehicles are ready to meet the challenges associated with winter. You need to check the oil, test the antifreeze, check the tire tread and much more and once that is finished it needs to be done on the next vehicle. The 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight is responsible for preparing the vehicles for their One Grand Forks Air Force Base family.

The 319th LRS vehicle management flight consists of 37 Airmen, 24 active-duty Air Force members and 13 civilians. Those Airmen are responsible for maintaining 262 vehicles valued at more than $30 million during the harsh winters of North Dakota, as well as the rest of the year.

“We go through several stages of fleet preparations prior to the winter months,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonah Foster, 319th LRS vehicle management superintendent. “Our snow removal fleet is our main focus during this time. They go through a two-phase maintenance and ops check process before inclement conditions occur.”

Foster acknowledges the wide variety of challenges associated with winter.

“The extreme cold weather puts a large strain on motors. Fluids can’t move or lubricate properly when cold, and batteries will freeze if they become low on charge,” said Foster. “During cold weather months, it is crucial that we brief units to take the proper precautions to preserve vehicles by having them preferably stored indoors or plugged in when not in use. We also ensure the vehicles we procure are outfitted with properly treaded tires and drivetrains to reduce possibilities of accidents.”

Foster said they are able to complete their mission of providing and maintaining a safe and serviceable vehicle fleet to complete the base mission, as well as provide worldwide vehicular support by consistently achieving a high vehicle in-commission rate.

“Having a high vehicle in-commission rate ensures we are doing our part as vehicle management to support other units in fulfilling their missions,” said Foster.

The large snow-removal equipment used to ensure the flightline is functional also provides obstacles for the flight to overcome.

“There is a lot more to these vehicles than any other vehicle. It’s much more extensive,” said Senior Airman Robert Bales, 319th LRS vehicle maintenance journeyman.

Bales is one of the Airmen responsible for ensuring vehicles are prepared for winter and maintained as the winter progresses. He mentioned another unique challenge of dealing with large snow plows is the body work. He said the front of the plows get damaged often due to the workload they complete and they have to be able to fix that damage to ensure the plow functions properly.

Another challenge the vehicle management flight faces is the hazardous road conditions often associated with winter.

“Winter conditions make our fleet and our Airmen more vulnerable to accidents,” said Foster. “We brief Airmen across the wing to take proper precautions prior to driving, such as verifying road conditions and ensuring a thorough operator’s inspection is conducted.” 

Families must make sure every family member is taken care of, and that is why the 319th LRS vehicle management flight goes above and beyond to provide personally owned vehicle inspections to prepare the Warriors of the North for winter.

“We use our skills that the Air Force invested in us to give back to our community,” said Foster. “We go through thorough inspections of privately owned vehicles and provide advice on the necessary precautions drivers should take during the winter months. We also have a certified car seat inspector who provides knowledge and conducts proper installation of child car seats.”

Foster said this is the second year providing these services, and they were able to inspect 74 vehicles and identify 109 concerns that needed to be addressed. They also determined 77 percent of the car seats inspected were improperly installed, but they were able to correct all but one of the issues that day.

The 319th LRS vehicle management flight has a hand in every mission and they work to ensure the mission can be completed.

“We consist of hardworking Airmen who go above and beyond when maintaining vehicles and supporting missions,” said Foster. “We are on call 24 hours a day and work together to get the job done.”