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Maintaining refuelers: keeping jets in the air

Vehicle Maintenance

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Thomas, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainer, works on a refueling truck, Dec. 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The refueling maintenance shop is an outlying vehicle maintenance shop of the 18th LRS at Kadena AB that specializes in maintaining and repairing refuel vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

Vehicle Maintenance

Members of the 18th Logisitcs Readiness Squadron Vehicle Maintenance work on an R-11 truck, Dec. 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The members work in the refueling maintenance shop, an outlying shop geared specifically towards maintaining and repairing refuel vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

Vehicle Maintenance

Refueling trucks sit parked, Dec. 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The refueling maintenance shop is an outlying vehicle maintenance shop of the 18th Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena AB that specializes in maintaining and repairing refuel trucks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

Vehicle Maintenance

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Thomas, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainer, works on a refueling truck, Dec. 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The refueling maintenance shop is an outlying vehicle maintenance shop of the 18th LRS at Kadena AB that specializes in maintaining and repairing refuel vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

Vehicle Maintenance

Oshiro Satoshi (left) and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Thomas (right), 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainers, work on a refueling truck, Dec. 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The refueling maintenance shop is an outlying vehicle maintenance shop of the 18th LRS at Kadena AB that specializes in maintaining and repairing refuel vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

Vehicle Maintenance

Oshiro Satoshi, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintainer, works on a refueling truck, Dec. 21, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The refueling maintenance shop is an outlying vehicle maintenance shop of the 18th LRS at Kadena AB that specializes in maintaining and repairing refuel vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- While everyone seems to know the importance of putting aircraft in the sky, some may not understand the amount of support that goes into successful air power. The 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Maintenance – more specifically members of the refueling maintenance shop – knows just what it takes to support the mission.

Vehicle maintenance deals with any and all government owned vehicles; from excavators and forklifts to firetrucks and security forces cars and trucks. Within that array lies the refueling trucks – a key component to getting jets off of Kadena Air Base’s runway and into the air.

With many different specialties in vehicle maintenance, Staff Sgt. David Bustria, 18th LRS vehicle maintainer, has made his way to the outlying refueling maintenance shop after six and a half years in the career field.

“The more experience you get, and excel in a position … They’ll rotate you to a different place,” Bustria explained. “As a 7-level we have to be well rounded.”

During technical school, the career field is broken down into different specialties or vehicle types, but the airmen will only specialize in one at a time, giving them an opportunity to master one before moving on to learn about a new one.

In a few short months, Bustria has learned the ins and outs of maintaining and repairing refueling trucks. 

Amongst the refueling vehicles Bustria works with are the R-11, R-12 and C300 – each giving him an opportunity to diagnose and fix minuscule issues such as replacing seals, changing tires, to more difficult tasks such as locating and stopping air leaks as well as troubleshooting and correcting complicated issues in the engine.

Despite being new to the world of refueling maintenance he has been able to adjust effortlessly. With nearly half the shop being made up of civilian workers, Bustria and the other vehicle maintainers rely heavily on the seasoned workers.

“The civilians are really amazing on how they do their job; some have been here for like 20 years,” he explained. “What better guide or master to get the experience from than the civilians?”

Although the ultimate focus of the shop is to ensure every aircraft that comes down is able to be refueled the refueling maintenance members still see to it to help one another.

“We synergize,” Bustria said, “That’s what outlying shops are all about – we help each other.

Understanding the importance of being behind the scenes and on the support end of things keeps Bustria and the rest of the team motivated to continue improving their role in the mission.

“For me, learning, training and fixing trucks … You get a sense of accomplishment every day,” he said. “There won’t be airplanes taking off if we don’t have these refuelers – the flightline would shut down if we didn’t have any fuel.”