341st LRS mobile maintenance critical to mission success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
It's 2 a.m. on a typical February morning in Great Falls, Mont.

A Humvee from Malmstrom Air Force Base has just broken down on the side of a road on its way to a missile alert facility.

An Airman from the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron mobile maintenance section has just been notified of the breakdown and prepares to drive two hours to provide on-the-spot support and fix the malfunction.

On any given day of the week, 400 Airmen are posted out in the 13,000 square miles that make up Malmstrom's missile complex. Six Airmen from the 341st LRS mobile maintenance section work seven days a week 24 hours a day ensuring all government vehicles are functional.

"I've been in the Air Force for 12 years as a mobile maintenance technician," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Catron, 341st LRS mobile maintenance NCO in charge. "I've been stationed at small bases where response time to a vehicle can take five to 10 minutes. Here, where there is 13,000 miles to cover, and unpredictable weather patterns, response time can take anywhere from one to four hours. We can put up to 400 miles on a truck in one day."

Although the mobile maintenance section at Malmstrom may be a small shop of only six Airmen, they respond to more than 40 mobile calls every month.

"The most rewarding thing in this career field is finding what is wrong with the vehicle after it has broken down," Catron said. "It's like solving a puzzle and when you take your time, do everything right, you get that 'ah ha' moment. I feel lucky to have the job I have and be stationed in Montana because we get to see places a lot of Airmen don't have the chance to."

Despite the long work hours at times, these Airmen wouldn't have it any other way.

"In vehicle maintenance, they do the same thing over and over and can work on the same vehicle for four days," said Staff Sgt. Shane McDonald, 341st LRS mobile maintenance technician. "They receive a work order that states the exact problem. In mobile maintenance, we have to go out there and fix a different vehicle every day. There's always something new and we never know what the problem is until we go to the site and try to figure it out ourselves."

Although the mobile maintenance section responds to both accidents and vehicle malfunctions, their most common fixes include fluid leaks, belt replacements, air conditioning and heating systems, and flat tires.

"This job is critical because we support security forces members and help them do their job," said Senior Airman James Skare, 341st LRS mobile maintenance technician. "If they're driving and they get stranded on the side of the road, that's one of the worst situations for them on a day-to-day basis. When I respond to the scene, fix the problem, they're always extremely appreciative and that's why my job is so rewarding."