JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Urquhart, a member of the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, is a vehicle mechanic who currently works on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland vehicles needing service, but during a deployment last year, his skills helped provide emergency services a world away in Agadez, Niger.
With only two ambulances for the entire city and neither of them operational, members of the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron who were deployed to Nigerien Air Base 201 identified the need to repair at least one of the city’s two publicly owned ambulances.
After hearing a proposal from his vehicle maintainers, Capt. Kevin Torres, 724th Logistics Readiness Flight commander, threw his support behind the goodwill gesture. Within just a few weeks, Urquhart and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Beard, also with the 724th LRF, started troubleshooting the ambulances to determine if one could be salvaged.
One of the vehicles was completely unserviceable; however, they were able to start the engine on the second and conducted complete diagnostics to locate all of the damaged and worn-out parts.
“The vehicle was clearly beat up,” Urquhart said at the time. “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, and several steering and suspension components were either missing or needed to be replaced.”
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 official duties, the Airmen worked to repair the ambulance during their off-duty time and on Oct. 30, 2020, the mayor of Agadez City, Mamane Boukari, accepted delivery of a fully functional ambulance and life-saving medical equipment at the Sanitary District Community of Agadez clinic.
Urquhart was proud of the contribution he and the other 724th LRF mechanics made to make to the local community.
“It was a unique and fulfilling project to have a hand in,” he said. “I’m confident it will make a profound difference for the people of Agadez.”
The ambulance received a complete makeover, with repairs consisting of new tires, brake pads, alternator, air conditioner compressor, headlights and taillights, side view mirrors, and a new driver’s door, among other repairs, which also included refurbishing the lettering on the side of the vehicle.
In addition to the repairs, the ambulance also received much-needed medical equipment, including a litter, basic medical supplies, tourniquet, suture kit, emergency trauma dressing, and a first aid kit – all of which were non-existent before the vehicle’s makeover.
In total, the repairs took two months, 96 hours of labor, and provided 1.5 million CFA Franc, or Franc of the Financial Community of Africa, back to the local economy due to the purchase of parts from local businesses.
Private organizations at Nigerien Air Base 201, including the Top 3, Company Grade Officer Corps and 5-6 Council, supported the effort and assisted with funding the needed parts.
Overall, the project was a huge success for the Airmen and for the community.
“Being able to directly impact the local population, even though we are just vehicle mechanics, was the best opportunity I’ve been given in my three deployments,” said Tech. Sgt. Colin Elmer, 724th LRF vehicle maintenance technician.
The Airmen’s supervisor also appreciated the hard work and the compassion the team showed for the community they were a part of during their deployment.
“I consider it an honor to have given my Airmen the opportunity to work on this project and to be wholeheartedly invested in fulfilling U.S. Africa Command's capacity-building objectives for our partners,” Torres said. “The vehicle maintenance team’s efforts in restoring the asset go beyond just duty due to the kindred spirits between the citizens of Agadez and our service men and women.”