30th LRS vehicle operations keeps launch mission moving
By Michael Peterson, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 04, 2016
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Across the Air Force, the primary mission of Logistics Readiness Squadrons typically focus on supporting the various aircrews and supplying the aircraft on base. While there might not be the usual flying mission for the 30th LRS vehicle operations unit, Vandenberg does host another unique mission that requires a great deal of their logistical support.
The 30th LRS vehicle operations works as the control center for government vehicles not directly assigned to specific units, operating a fleet of 61 vehicles that includes everything from everyday sedans, trucks and buses to more specialized equipment like 10-ton tractors and all-terrain forklifts. They support a wide variety of day-to-day operations such as running pickups and deliveries, transporting personnel, moving barricades, issuing U-Drive-It vehicles, as well as overseeing vehicle licensing and training for the entire base. However, there is one key difference in their role at Vandenberg AFB.
"Here at Vandenberg, our mission is a little different from other bases where there are flying missions," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Marrufo, 30th LRS vehicle operations control center NCOIC. "At those bases we normally support the aircrew and their aircraft, so we'd have something like pickup and delivery service for aircraft supply parts. We still do that pickup and delivery, but we do it for missiles and rockets instead."
To the average driver on base, seeing GOVs and their operators out on the roads is such a common occurrence that one rarely gives it a second thought, but the 30th LRS vehicle operations understands how vital transportation is to the launch mission at Vandenberg, where launch facilities are spread throughout the third largest base in the Air Force, which encompasses more than 150 square miles of land area.
"We tend to operate behind the scenes, so you don't always notice the support we provide," said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grogan, 30th LRS vehicle operations supervisor. "Everything builds up for the launch though. Whether it's our training section, our licensing section or our equipment section, we pull together for the same thing. It's important to get the job done."
During launch weeks, there is a flurry of extra activity running deliveries, transporting equipment and personnel, placing bleachers, prepping vehicles and more. Each launch is unique, so requirements and locations often vary from mission to mission. Factor in the large increase of check-out vehicles issued to other units and the support of incoming DVs and guests for viewing, and launch time can prove to be taxing for the 30th LRS vehicle operations, but as launch-related requests start pouring in, their controllers and operators work to ensure every unit gets the additional logistics and vehicle support they need - when they need it.
"Four to five years ago, we had maybe 60 percent of our U-Drive-It vehicles used for launch support," said Marrufo. "Now, it's not unusual for all of our general purpose vehicles to be exhausted during a launch, and we usually have a couple of buses and our surrey - with operators - out doing DV support."
A big reason for the increased vehicle usage - a recent fleet reduction conducted by Air Force Space Command in 2014. The number of unit-assigned GOVs was cutback during the process, centralizing more vehicles into the capable hands of the 30th LRS vehicle operations for coordination.
"There was a little bit of a panic at first. Everyone was afraid of losing their vehicles and not being able to complete their primary mission," said Marrufo of the AFSPC reduction. "They maintained our UDI fleet though, so other units could still come and get the vehicles they need. Over the last year and a half, we've noticed the increase in UDI requests here, especially during launches."
The reduction may have produced more work in coordinating and issuing vehicles, but thanks to the flexibility and effort of the vehicle operations controllers and operators, the launch support missions at Vandenberg are able to continue on with a smaller, efficiently-managed fleet.
While it may be rockets and launch crews instead of airplanes and air crews, the mission of logistics support remains the same - and launch after launch, the 30th LRS vehicle operations continue to show they will deliver.