724 EABS mechanics resuscitated ambulance, brought life to Agadez first responders mission

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Marie Brown
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

“Even though your time on the job is temporary ... your work there will last forever," said Idowu Koyenikan, African descent author and organizational consultant.

This lesson echoes in the actions which brought back to life a key piece of medical equipment needed by the city of Agadez, Niger.

Mayor Mamane Boukari, of Agadez City, accepted delivery of a fully functional ambulance and life-saving medical equipment on Oct. 30, 2020, at the District Sanitaire Commune d'Agadez clinic, or Sanitary District Community of Agadez clinic.

With only two ambulances and neither working, members of the Nigerien Air Base 201 Civil Affairs Team identified the need to repair one of the two publicly-owned ambulances servicing the city of Agadez.

After hearing a proposal from his vehicle maintainers, Capt. Kevin Torres, 724th Logistics Readiness Flight commander, threw his support behind this goodwill gesture.

“I consider it an honor to have given my Airmen the opportunity to work on this project and to be whole heartedly invested in fulfilling (United States) Africa Commands capacity building objectives for our partners,” Torres said. “The vehicle maintenance team’s efforts in restoring this asset go beyond just duty, due to the kindred spirits between the citizens of Agadez and our servicemen and women.”

Within just a few weeks, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Beard and Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Urquhart, 724 LRF vehicle maintenance technicians, started troubleshooting the ambulances. One was completely unserviceable, however, they were able to start up the second and conducted a complete diagnostic on all of the damaged and worn out parts.

The outcome … the ambulance was unsafe.

“The vehicle was clearly beat up,” Urquhart said. “While driving, the ambulance could easily lose a wheel and cause a roll-over. After the visual inspection we also found the brake pads were worn to nearly nothing, the tires were dry rotted and balding, as well as several steering and suspension components were either missing or needed to be replaced.”

“Vehicle (maintenance) was able to provide diagnostics and perform repairs for an emergency vehicle that will directly save the lives of the people of Agadez,” Beard said.

Both Beard and Urquhart knew the ambulance needed a lot of work, so the team immediately began coordinating efforts for approval to bring the ambulance on base. There they would be able to complete repairs and make the ambulance safe and functional.

Without neglecting their daily duties, Airmen with 724 LRF vehicle maintenance worked to repair the ambulance during their off-duty time.

“It was a unique and fulfilling project to have a hand in,” Urquhart said.  “I’m confident it will make a profound difference for the people of Agadez.”

The ambulance received a complete makeover. The repairs made consisted of:

  • New tires and wheel studs
  • New brake pads
  • New alternator
  • New air conditioner compressor
  • New ball bearings
  • New air filter cover
  • New front headlights and bulbs
  • New taillights
  • New exterior side view mirrors
  • New front driver’s door assembly
  • New emergency lift installed
  • Electrical fuses replaced
  • Rust from wheels removed and repainted
  • Ambulance exterior lettering retouched
  • Front grill repainted
  • Front bumper guard was bent back into original shape
  • Retouched license plate lettering

In addition to the necessary repairs, the ambulance also received much needed medical equipment such as a litter, basic medical supplies, tourniquet, suture kit, emergency trauma dressing and a first aid kit – all of which were non-existent.

In total, the repairs took two months, 96 hours of labor and gave back 1.5 million CFA Franc to the local economy by purchasing parts from local businesses.

The repairs wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Airmen and private organizations on Nigerien Air Base 201.

The CAT partnered with a number of private organizations such as the Top 3, Company Grade Officer Corps and 5-6 Council to fund the sourcing of parts needed to bring the ambulance up to serviceable standards.

Thanks to the 724 LRF mechanics and the generosity of the Airmen of Nigerien Air Base 201, the city of Agadez now has one operable, serviceable and safe ambulance.

“Being able to directly impact the local population, even though we are just vehicle mechanics, was the best opportunity I’ve been given on my three deployments,” said Tech. Sgt. Colin Elmer, 724 LRF vehicle maintenance technician. “I felt like we could see a payoff that hasn’t been as obvious on my previous deployments.” 

“We’re extremely proud of the work and contributions by the Airmen and Soldiers of Air Base 201,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Gipson, 724 EABS commander.  “The American people’s ability and desire to help is why we’re here in the Sahel.  If we do our mission well -- including making such bonds with the people of Agadez -- then the people of Niger can stay turned away from extremists and authoritarianism.”