Iowa ANG vehicle maintenance A-team tackles crash truck conundrum

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

SIOUX CITY, IA -- The vehicle maintenance shop at the 185th Air Refueling Wing was recently presented with a very large, lime-yellow problem. The diesel engine in the Air National Guard fire department’s aging “Crash Truck” had developed an internal coolant leak.

A rebuilt engine came with a $50,000 replacement cost and vehicle operations shop supervisors were told there is “no money.”

Added to the conundrum, the truck cannot be taken out of service because it is a necessary component of the unit’s KC-135 flying operations at the Sioux City, Iowa airport. For the interim the truck had still been in service at the Iowa Air Guard unit.

Reminiscent of the 1980’s TV show “The A-team,” when the chips were down, vehicle maintenance mechanics and shop supervisors Senior Master Sgt. Luke Terry and Master Sgt. Archie Kelly came up with a plan.

When the current runway construction project began at the Sioux City airport this spring, Terry said it presented a window of opportunity to tear into the eight wheeled behemoth. The unit’s KC-135 aircraft will be off station for the summer, so the engine repair project could begin.

With the necessary time and opportunity that came with the runway closure, 185th mechanics decided that the work could be done in-house. Terry and Kelly decided the job could also be done at a significant cost savings by doing the work locally, to the tune of a $40,000 cost savings.

When they had a problem and no one else could help, they called in the A-team to make the most of their lime-yellow lemon.  A mixture of full-time and traditional guard members working during their annual training this week made quick work of removing the entire 8v92 two-stroke Detroit Diesel engine.

After putting up a small fight, Master Sgt. Ryan Lieber, Technical Sgt. Jason Lammers, Staff Sgt. Lorne Fauth and Technical Sgt. Crisanto Vargas cajoled the engine into submission and were able to remove it from the rear of the truck.

“We have never done this before, this is not normal maintenance for us,” Terry said, as he described the plan to overhaul the entire engine.

The “Crash Truck” is an eight wheeled 1996 Teledyne P23 with a giant V8 diesel that has been put through the paces for more than 25 years. Terry said the “pump and role” truck design has the engine also driving the truck’s two huge water cannons that can blast 2000 gallons of water a minute.

“This is a high RPM engine,” Terry added, when he described the workload that has been placed on the truck’s engine for a quarter century.

Technical Sgt. Jason Lammers said the plan has them doing the engine disassembly during a portion of their annual training this June, while also figuring out what replacement parts are needed. Lammers said he initially learned his trade at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon, Iowa. He said he runs a diesel mechanic shop with his dad in nearby Le Mars, Iowa while also serving part time in the Iowa Air Guard.

After the necessary parts arrive, Lammers said they plan to finish the remainder of their 15 allotted annual training days where they plan to put the beast back together before the end of summer.

When the runway construction is complete and the unit’s KC-135 aircraft return, the goal is to have the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting or ARFF Crash Truck back on line. By this fall the Iowa ANG mechanics should be reflecting on the illustrious words of Col. John “Hannibal” Smith when he said, at the end of every precarious A-team episode, “I love it when a plan comes together.”