[Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in a series on shift workers.]
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — With the Air Force standing ready to fly, fight, and win day or night, Airmen from the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron work after the sun sets to ensure both the Air Force and Barksdale missions are done.
After sundown, the mission continues to roll on, and Airmen from 2nd LRS vehicle operations drive Barksdale’s flying mission.
“We are the direct link on getting aircrew to and from their planes,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Rice, 2nd LRS vehicle operations NCO-in-charge swing shift. “Since most of the planes come down from flying on our shift, we are directly responsible for getting the aircrew back for their flight debrief. We are also responsible for any transient aircraft that may come in to the base and have to unload passengers or cargo. From 15 passenger vans to cranes and forklifts, we have the vehicles the base needs to get the job done.”
Aircrew transportation is not the only job vehicle operations Airmen do, they are responsible for towing and transporting stranded vehicles that can cause aircraft delays.
“We’re not just glorified taxi drivers. If a vehicle that maintenance or security forces use on the flightline break down, we have to remove it so it doesn’t affect aircraft travel,” said Senior Airman Dray Jackson, 2nd LRS vehicle operator. “We are responsible for towing those vehicles off and getting them back to our facility so they can be inspected and repaired by vehicle maintenance.”
It’s not just wheeled transportation, 2nd LRS move close to four million gallons of fuel a month through the pipes, tanks, and trucks of the fuels management flight.
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“Our shop is directly responsible for a big portion of aircraft refueling and defueling,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Marowski, 2nd LRS fuels management NCO in-charge swing shift. “Since many of the aircraft come down or go up during our shift, we are responsible for the fuel that they need to complete their daily mission. We are also directly responsible for defueling aircraft that are going into phase inspection, fuels maintenance or other reasons.”
Without parts and supplies, the 2nd Maintenance Group Airmen would be unable to repair the aging bomber.
“We house more than 24,000 items that are used to repair the B-52H,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Aguino, 2nd LRS Aircraft Parts Store supply journeyman. “From classified equipment and wheel and tire assemblies to bench stock, we store it here for quick access to the flightline. The maintainers order it, and we get it to them. The mission can’t stop because of a broken part. We help to get the replacement part and get it to who needs it, day or night.”
While 2nd LRS Airmen move parts, fuel and vehicles, the sunless sky brings challenges to these night shift warriors.
“With my husband on nights it makes it harder for us to spend good quality time together,” said Soraya Padgett, wife of Senior Airman Justin Padgett, 2nd LRS. “We can’t do many things that normal couples do like going to a Friday night movie or date nights because he’s working.”
Though it’s challenging, Padgett says she makes the most of the situation.
“We make the most of the time we have,” she said. “I bring him dinner every chance I can so that we can spend more time together.”
While night shift can take its toll on personal relationships, it can also builds wingmanship and resiliency between Airmen.
“Smaller night shifts allow us to get to know more about each other,” said Marowski “This wingman concept helps us to take care of each other by fostering a brother sister relationship so they can easily talk to one another when they need help.”