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Warhorses gallop steadfast through COVID-19

Two Airmen working on fly-cab of a deicer, turning wrenches

Airman 1st Class Kevin Berisko (left) and Airman Diondra Page, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron special purpose mechanics, work on a deicer fly-cab May 26, 2020 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Vehicle maintenance identifies and corrects problems during the offseason as part of the summer rebuild program. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

Warhorses in the middle ages were known as cavalry warriors, they came in different sizes, types and were used for various forms of warfare, reconnaissance, raiding, communication, or supply.

Unlike the four-legged equine Warhorses of the past, the 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron continues to help maintain the mission of the 55th Wing, getting the right parts and fuels products to the right place.

“If the Warhorses shut down, the effects would be severe, not only to the wing, it would also effect combatant missions overseas,” said Lt. Col. Brent Tschikof, 55th LRS commander. “LRS helps sustain and drive sortie production.”

Because of COVID-19, LRS empowered flight commanders to approve isolation and restriction of movement as appropriate, establishing blue and silver teams to keep the mission going while creating separation in the workplace.

At the forefront is the health and safety of the squadron made up of 281 professionals, 72% military, and 28% civilians. To ensure that mission essential personnel and those teleworking, had the protection needed. Maintaining social distancing whenever possible, wearing protective faces masks and putting in place staggered shifts.

The Warhorses are organized into four flights:

The deployment and distribution flight takes care of wing passenger movements, cargo processing, aircrew transportation support, shipment and deliveries of personal household goods. Executing installation deployment command and control, overseeing approximately 950 unit type codes, orchestrating deployments, employment and redeployments in support of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions within the wing.

The fuels management flight provides 24/7 aviation, ground fuel and cryogenics support operations, maintaining multiple grades of aviation and ground fuel, liquid oxygen, deicing fluid for the wing. Supporting wing and transient aircraft through flightline fuel servicing hydrant and truck operations.  

The materiel management flight supports several unique systems on Offutt aircraft maintenance demands, they serve as a supply central point of contact and equipment accountability authority for wing customers. Providing mobility bags, weapons and individual body armor for deploying personnel and the tracking of hazardous materials.

The vehicle management flight provides maintenance support and fleet management for the wing’s vehicle fleet, accounting and maintaining all vehicles.

“We’ve been pushing hard from one major event to another, it would be easy for our focus and energy to fade, but not once has their performance slipped,” said Tschikof. “These men and women have a can do attitude and are laser focused.”

The Warhorses had large portion of its members displaced due to the March 2019 flooding where 31 out of 35 of their facilities and 41 components of fuels infrastructure, such as hydrant pits, containment tanks, checkpoints and underground storage damaged in the floodwaters.

"Although the flood was devastatingly destructive, I feel our squadron stepped up to the plate and made the best of a tragic situation," said Gina Burnham, 55th LRS supply customer service. "This has brought our flight together as a cohesive unit."

Even though some of the flights were hit harder than others, finding space to relocate, finding difficulties moving parts and supplies. The Warhorses focused on reestablishing supply chains and took multiple steps to regain their capabilities to continue its mission not only for the 55th Wing, but for associate units here and around the world.

The 55th LRS will be celebrating its 10th anniversary as a squadron this coming September continuing its mission in support of the 55th Wing and its partner units.

“The Warhorses continued their mission through rising waters and now COVID-19. They know that the wing mission is unlike any other, even if there is no active flying, the wing continues to train operators and replace deployed crews.” said Tschikof. “They have a clarity of purpose to ensure logistics is never a constraint to the mission. It takes special Airman to do logistics readiness and they should feel special because they are.”