Maintenance Airmen ensure mission success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
In a back shop about the size of a master bedroom, Airmen from the missile maintenance team inspect and sort tools for the upcoming shift of maintainers ready to deploy to the missile field.

To ensure mission success, Airmen in the MMT tool room provide 100 percent accountability for more than 1,000 tools each maintenance team needs while working on one of Malmstrom’s 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles spread throughout a 13,800 square mile missile complex.

Airmen in the tool room are split into two shifts to maximize the amount of time maintainers are able to work in the missile field and still have needed base support.

“Our day usually starts off around 5 a.m. so we can prepare for the team coming in,” said Senior Airman Shaquille Stephens, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron maintenance technician. “When the team comes in, we make sure they have everything they need out of the tool room and their equipment is field-ready and perfect to take it and go.”

Stephens recently transferred from another maintenance shop and is learning the ropes while awaiting additional training to become a field worker.

While counting tools may seem like a small task, it is imperative maintainers are provided each and every tool necessary to perform their duties of keeping the United States’ nuclear weapons on alert at all times.

These tools range from wrenches, hammers, pry bars and screw drivers to tape, lanyard material, dust caps and hundreds of bolts.

Airman 1st Class Joseph Griffin, 341st MMXS maintenance technician, said missing one small tool could cause a ripple effect, possibly causing an unwanted delay in a missile’s uptime.

“If they don’t have what they need, they can’t get the mission done even if it is as something as small as a drill bit,” Griffin said. “I assume they need every tool, so every tool needs to be in their kit.”

At the beginning of each shift, inventory is taken to verify all tools are in the correct locations inside boxes, or kits, maintainers use while in the field.

Once each of the 10 to 15 kits are verified, they are loaded into the back of a maintenance van. The maintenance van is taken out to each location and is used to house all 3,500 pounds of equipment the maintenance teams need to complete a job.

Upon arrival of the maintenance van to the work location, all of the equipment is unloaded while the job is being worked.

Additionally, an Airman is on standby in the tool room as a part runner in case a tool breaks or is misplaced while the team is working in the field. Once a call is received, the Airman then transports a replacement tool to the working maintainers.

Once the work is complete, all the equipment is loaded back into the truck to return to base. When they arrive back at the tool room, the equipment is again unloaded and each piece is accounted for.

The entire process in the field can take 12 to 16 hours to complete and the maintenance teams may return late in the evening or even stay out in the field.

The need for Airmen doing the job with attention to detail is crucial and Stephens said the job is of extreme importance to ensure missile maintainers are able to effectively and efficiently perform their duties of national security.

“I have friends in (other career fields) and I see me as a senior airman working on a nuclear weapon,” Stephens said. “It’s a great job because I will be entrusted to actually touch and work on a nuclear weapon system. I feel we are very important to the Air Force and very important to this country."