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Airmen innovation saves $224K, promotes safer travel

A new camper is in the works after the current version proved unfit for traveling Montana roads.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Bostick, left, and Staff Sgt. Derek Facio, 341st Security Support Squadron vehicle readiness center noncommissioned officers in charge, stand next to their redesigned camper Jan. 15, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. A new camper is in the works after the current version proved unfit for traveling Montana roads. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

Cutting down on height and length improves the aerodynamics and weight challenges the fleet vehicles suffer with the current camper.

A new camper prototype, top, and current version, bottom, are pictured to show the height and length differences Jan. 15, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Cutting down on height and length improves the aerodynamics and weight challenges the fleet vehicles suffer with the current camper. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

The new prototype is now over 2,500 pounds lighter, alleviating the need for air bag suspension in the rear to prevent bottoming out.

A current fleet camper, left, and a new camper prototype, right, are pictured to show the weight and length differences Jan. 15, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The new prototype is now over 2,500 pounds lighter, alleviating the need for air bag suspension in the rear to prevent bottoming out. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- In northern tier bases, weather ranges drastically from triple digits and hot road conditions to double-digit negatives, making icy roads hazardous if not travelled properly. Despite the risk, Airmen travel to and from the missile field to accomplish the mission.

When stationed away from missile alert facilities in the field, Airmen have a vehicle with a camper to serve as a temporary living facility.

“It was this time last year when we had a rollover with that vehicle and Airmen got hurt,” said Staff Sgt. Calvin Bostick, 341st Security Support Squadron vehicle readiness center NCO in charge.

Because of the dangerous mishap and with the help of Staff Sgt. Derek Facio, 341st SSPTS VRC assistant NCOIC, they took it upon themselves to redesign the camper Airmen use when they post in and out of the missile field.

“We spent a weekend designing the camper to improve safety and ended up showing leadership,” Bostick said.

The new camper, nicknamed Stubby, can potentially save more than $224,000 for the fleet. The current campers cost $27,500 per unit, whereas the new version is estimated at $11,500—less than half.

The current camper is top-heavy and considered unfit for missile field travel as a patch of ice or high winds can cause a rollover.

“There are certain times and places where Airmen drive and it gets pretty windy. Our dually trucks, which are rear-wheel drive, are terrible for the weather Montana gives us,” said Facio.

“Also, the existing campers bounce around and you can feel each bump. Even with our dually trucks, we need air bag suspension in the back because they’re heavy enough to bottom out,” Bostick added.

Differences between the two campers include: 10-foot length reduction, 2-foot height reduction and 2,700-pound weight reduction.

“After conducting surveys, we found out Airmen rarely use the dining area, stove and most storage,” said Bostick. “Bathrooms are at every launch facility now, which the original camper had and we took all these out to condense the camper.”

“The reductions make the new camper less top-heavy and more aerodynamic,” he continued.

According to Facio, the camper was tested and performed better than expected, demonstrating what it can offer to the vehicle fleet.

“We plan to test the camper during incredibly windy and snowy days, but mainly during Montana’s winters to see what it’s capable of,” he continued. “Right now, we’re trying to get feedback from Airmen with what we need to change.”

As a prototype, there will still be kinks to work out with the camper, including adding a 45-degree-angled to the front to promote aerodynamics, detachable jacks and more, said Bostick.

After feedback and additional features are finalized, there are plans to place three additional campers on order, if they receive funding for support.

Until then, Bostick and Facio expect the new camper to join the fleet by February 2019 after security forces Airmen take it on a few test drives once snow hits the ground.

Unless the innovation is funded, they estimate it would take four years to replace the entire camper fleet with the new design.

“We’re always looking for new improvements and equipment,” said Bostick. “We’re looking for the best things out there and want to make sure our Airmen get everything they can and need to do their job.”