Mission Monday: Medical maintainers nurse base operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sam Fogleman
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Doctors receive a lot of credit for saving peoples' lives directly, and they should. Still, have you ever wondered where the equipment doctors use to preserve life comes from and who is responsible for keeping it in working order?

The three Airmen who comprise the 92nd Medical Support Squadron medical maintenance office are your answer, at least at Fairchild Air Force Base.

"We repair and maintain all the medical equipment here," said Staff Sgt. Logan Kendrick, 92nd MDSS medical maintenance office NCO in charge. "When stuff breaks, it comes here."

The location to which Kendrick referred is the Fairchild Medical Treatment facility. In addition to the active duty component of the primary medical facility on base, the medical maintenance office also serves the 141st Medical Group, the War Reserve Material mission, the Navy Operational Support Center in Spokane, Washington, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape medical facilities, the 446th Airlift Wing out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Camp Murray, Washington, and the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, Oregon.

What would happen at all of those places if the medical maintenance staff of the 92nd MDSS did not show up for work?

"Within a year, the hospital would not meet Joint Commission standards," Kendrick said of that scenario. "So, if you are talking about the real world, they would still need to hire it out to a contractor."

The Joint Commission is the nonprofit organization who is the primary accreditor of both military and civilian hospitals throughout the majority of the United States.  In order to maintain that accreditation, Kendrick and his two Airmen rotate through all the medical offices on base, and some in the local area of eastern Washington, about twice a year.

"We try to stay out of everyone's face," Kendrick said. "Still, we're emailing and on the phone constantly."

The division of the workload in the medical maintenance office follows the Air Force template. Staff Sgt. Kendrick, as the sole NCO, handles the ordering of specific parts and sends equipment out on at least a monthly basis. The two junior enlisted Airmen do most of the direct maintenance, particularly at the offices in person.

"We ensure everything a patient uses is safe and sound," said Senior Airman Matthew Rehagen, 92nd MDSS medical maintenance technician, one of the two junior enlisted Airmen in the office. "We deal with the equipment custodians face-to-face, after they make initial contact with us."

What sets the medical maintenance shop apart from many other Air Force operations? It operates without any specific technical orders.

"Our AFIs [Air Force Instructions] say we will maintain equipment to the extent the manufacturer states," Kendrick said. "That give us some freedom and a lot of variables we can play with, even if it drives other offices crazy," he added with a smile.

One of the "big ticket items" in medical maintenance are the dental sterilizers. Kendrick said that the interplay of electrical components, water and steam can be particularly problematic. There are only three dental sterilizers on base, and one is kept as a "guinea pig" directly in the shop at all times for research and reference purposes.

Despite being located on the basement level of Fairchild's MTF, the medical maintenance office leaves a large, yet inconspicuous and often unsung, impression at the base. Without them, the mission would fail, or at least become out of compliance with JC standards.