Cannon firetruck maintainers keep mission well-oiled

Firetruck and Refueling Maintenance specialists work on a 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jan. 16, 2018. Airmen in this career field are the only ones Air Force-wide that are required to be able to operate on all government vehicles on their respective bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

Bill Wright, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck mechanic, operates on a vehicle at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jan. 16, 2018. Known as Firetruck and Refueling Maintenance specialists, these Airmen have dozens of vehicles to maintain on base, including 14 firetrucks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

When fires need to be put out, citizens call firefighters. When firefighters need their vehicles fixed, they call on firetruck maintainers. It’s a chain where one link can affect the rest.

 

It’s a reminder throughout the small shop of Firetruck and Refueling Maintenance (FARM) specialists here at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., that no one Airman can get the mission done without the help of others.

 

Leading the shop is Tech. Sgt. Rosemarie Koch, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO-in-charge of firetruck maintenance.

 

“We keep the firetrucks running well to ensure that when there is an emergency call, firefighters can respond as quickly as possible,” Koch said. “There have been many times over the years when a firetruck has gone down and the flight line is shut down as a result.”

 

Although they’re normally known as “firetruck maintainers,” in reality, they do so much more. Before firetruck maintenance was its own career field, separate from refueling maintenance. Today, Airmen in this newly-combined career field are the only ones Air Force-wide that are required to know how to work on all military vehicles at their respective bases. This comes into play when these Airmen are in different environments, according to Koch.

 

“When we’re deployed, we have to be as reliable and flexible as possible to aid the mission,” Koch said. “We deal with high priority vehicles that, if not maintained and properly fixed, can have a huge impact on the mission.”

 

Because of this large base of knowledge, Airmen have a one-year time span to learn about the job after arriving to their new base. For Cannon’s FARM specialists, this means becoming fully qualified in  119 tasks covering every vehicle type in the Air Force. The primary work load at Cannon includes 15 firetrucks and 11 refueling vehicles, in addition to the rest of the vehicles.

 

Once Airmen complete training, they are capable of switching between firetruck maintenance and refueling.

 

“We recently did a swap of personnel and the changeover has been better than expected,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Canter, 27 SOLRS NCO-in-charge of refueling maintenance. “If one shop starts to get more work than the other, they can pull [from each other].”

 

This flexibility is demanding, but the talented Airmen that meet these expectations keep the mission running smoothly, especially for those that work alongside them, such as firefighters.

 

“I’d say we know more about their impact on the mission than most” said Senior Airman Kaleb Armstrong, 27 SOLRS firefighter.

 

A small shop of four FARM specialists work in the fire department here. Whenever any firetrucks need to be worked on, they’re already within rock-throwing distance.

 

“Our firetrucks couldn’t work and we couldn’t do our job without them,” Armstrong said.

 

These vehicles need maintenance on a regular basis to ensure they’re performing the best they can.

 

“When a broken vehicle comes into the shop and nobody knows what’s wrong with it, being that person to be able to figure it out, see it leave and go back into service is very rewarding,” Koch said.

 

The effect of not having these FARM specialists would leave many Airmen unable to do their jobs. The flightline would be shutdown. Firefighters couldn’t respond to calls. The dozens of vehicles other career fields need would be unable to function. Although their career field is changing, their impact on everyday life and the mission across AFSOC doesn’t.