Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson mechanic innovates safety solution

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Samuel R. Colvin
  • 673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The older deicing trucks at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, weren’t engineered with anchor points on top for mechanics to tether themselves with a fall-protection harness in case they slip. Thanks to a civilian Airman with a passion for Air Force safety, innovation and Alaska, that’s changing.

Jessie Mauldin, 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron heavy mobile equipment mechanic, has found a way to protect the Airmen who maintain the installation’s deicing trucks which spray heated deicing fluid on aircraft to remove ice and snow prior to takeoff. The trucks undergo regular maintenance and at times require immediate attention from heavy-vehicle mechanics, who sometimes must work on top of the trucks.

Mauldin is modifying all of JBER’s 18 older deicers to strategically affix four anchor points to the top of each truck so mechanics can tether themselves with a harness. He began work on the first truck Jan. 22, 2020, drilling a hole in the boom cradle near the front of the truck to affix an eyelet.

“Having the safety harnesses attached on top of the trucks so we can be safe at all times is going to save us a lot of headaches,” Mauldin said. “There are times when the trucks break by the planes and if we have to get on top of the trucks, there’s nowhere to hook yourself to them.”

These deicing trucks must be brought into the hangar where mechanics can tether themselves to overhead cables. This adds a few more steps to mission readiness, and causes issues when one of the two fall protection systems in the hangar isn’t available.

“When we got the newer deicer fleet, he [Mauldin] noticed the trucks were coming from the factory with eyelets, these fall protection anchor points,” said Master Sgt. Brian Estonactoc, 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron mission generation vehicular maintenance section chief. “That’s what sparked his idea.” 

“I got in touch with the engineer for the deicing truck manufacturer and he sent me a blueprint of exactly where I could drill holes on top of the older trucks without damaging the structural integrity,” Mauldin said.

Since this is a safety issue, Mauldin used the blueprint as a guide and cut a metal template to line up exactly with the new holes on top of the trucks to ensure uniformity.

“Wintertime is when I see this being really useful, because a lot of the trucks are left outside and have ice on them,” Mauldin said. “After this is done, it kind of takes the worry away because you’re tethered to the truck. If you fall, you’re only going to fall two or three feet.”

Mauldin describes his project as a simple, quick fix to a big problem.

“Mauldin identified a shortfall and sourced a solution,” said Estonactoc, who also worked with Mauldin at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in the early 2000s. “He worked with the manufacturer, engineers and wing safety, and we finalized the addition within our flight.”

Mauldin, who was active-duty in the Air Force working in vehicle maintenance for almost nine years, was medically discharged from the Air Force in 2009.

“I didn’t want out of the Air Force,” Mauldin said. “Any chance I had to come back and work with the Air Force, I was taking it.”

After accepting a temporary position at JBER as a heavy mobile equipment mechanic in 2016, Mauldin was hired as a full-time employee in the summer of 2018.

“He’s our lead deicer mechanic,” Estonactoc said. “He’s very passionate about his job and safety comes with it.”

U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Sherman, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the 88th Air Base Wing commander, coined Mauldin during the Commander in Chief’s Installation Excellence Award site visit Jan. 16, 2020, to recognize him for his efforts in innovation and safety. Mauldin has taken steps to push his innovation to all heavy vehicle maintenance shops Air Force-wide.