Hybrid vehicles are coming to the Air National Guard, and 10 Airmen are now better prepared to handle their specific maintenance requirements after completing the Air National Guard’s very first hybrid vehicle maintenance course Aug. 29 at Volk Field.
Six years ago, the Air Force called for implementing hybrid vehicles to reduce overall fuel consumption by 2 percent annually and increase the vehicle fleet’s mile-per-gallon performance as part of its Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan. Three years ago, a White House memorandum declared that all new light duty vehicles leased or purchased by government agencies must be alternative fueled vehicles – hybrids, electric, compressed natural gas or biodiesel – by Dec. 31, 2015.
“Hybrids are pretty new in the field, the government is starting to have them trickle down into the fleets, but there’s really no training out there right now except for an active duty base overseas in Spangdahlem, Germany,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Boyko, vehicle maintenance superintendent at Volk Field, Wis. A former active duty Air Force instructor, Boyko has taught fire truck and refueling truck maintenance at Volk Field and saw there would be a need for hybrid vehicle maintenance.
Boyko spoke with the active duty hybrid vehicle maintenance instructors in Germany to help build his course, and convinced the National Guard Bureau of the need.
“They felt confident enough to give us some money to purchase some training aids,” he said, referring to a Ford Fusion with removable hood and doors, and various cut-away hybrid components. “I sent two of my mechanics to hybrid school, and here we are today.”
Those two instructors – Master Sgt. Tom Parrish and Master Sgt. Jon Taylor – completed a thorough civilian hybrid vehicle maintenance course in Massachusetts. They brought that experience to their classroom.
“We seem to be doing a good job of taking the active-duty curriculum and the civilian and blending it,” Taylor said. “I think the students appreciate a lot of the hands-on. We actually get to get out and look at the components, take them apart – just what they’re going to do in the field.”
“Feedback from the students [indicates] they seem to be enjoying it,” Parrish added. “Everybody says they’re getting a lot out of it.”
Senior Airman William Allen, of the Texas Air National Guard’s 147th Reconnaissance Wing, said he had received “very good” training during the inaugural course.
“[We’re learning] how to deal with high-voltage battery systems, how to disconnect the battery without harming yourself or harming others,” Allen said. “[We’re] learning the functions of the hybrid system and how they operate. I feel pretty confident I should be able to work on a hybrid system, and show the people back at my unit how to do it, too.”
Master Sgt. Adrien Martin, of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Air Wing, agreed.
“It’s a whole new type of technology,” Martin explained. “You have to unlearn a lot of things you’ve known throughout your career in order to grasp some of the concepts. It’s just a totally different animal than a regular vehicle.”
Safety is one of the most important tools when working on a hybrid vehicle, Martin said. The battery pack holds 275 volts, and blaze orange high-voltage cables thread throughout the vehicle and engine compartment.
“First and foremost, learning about the safety of the vehicle, and learning about all the new components that come with hybrid vehicles, the theories behind the components and how they work,” Martin continued. “With the resources and the training we received here, and understanding the concepts of the vehicle, we can safely maintain it and fix anything that’s wrong.”
Boyko said he would like to see the hybrid vehicle maintenance course offered on a quarterly basis.