MND-B NCO keeps 'Dragons' firing
March 9, 2009
BAGHDAD - Sgt. Christine Wallace, from Lubbock, Texas, works in a small office inside the motor pool of Company E, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah. Wallace spends her days helping Soldiers from the 1st Combined Arms "Dragon" Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment which is attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Despite the size of her office, the significance of her duties rivals that of any operation across the FOB. Wallace is the noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the small-arms repair shop for Co. E.
"A lot of Soldiers on the FOB didn't realize what our job is and how busy we are. Now, after all of the gauging, we get questions anytime, anywhere. We get requests to look at weapons at all times of the day," Wallace said.
Since weapons only have to be gauged, a type of maintenance inspection, once a year, most Soldiers on the FOB probably would not have been able to accurately describe what the small-arms shop does on a daily basis. However, now that weapons are in the process of being gauged, Wallace's popularity has risen dramatically.
During a four day span, Wallace and her assistant, Spc. Jonathan Sutcliffe gauged 285 weapons for 1-63 CAB, valued at $511,021. They also gauged 162 weapons for the 65th Military Police Battalion on FOB Mahmudiyah, which were valued at $169,444.
"The process starts with Soldiers turning in DA 24-4 forms, then it's usually a five or 10-minute process if the weapon is not broken," Wallace said. "The gauging is done with exact calibrations. We have the necessary gauges for the weapons that are used by 1-63 CAB, and they test whether the weapon will fire correctly or not. The slightest nick or burr on the bolt means there is a failure."
While most of the Battalion's weapons only require the quick five to 10-minute inspection, more than a few can't pass the calibrations due to nicks, scratches, or even dents and large cracks. Flawed weapons are regularly found during the testing using the small, thin gauges.
"We have seen cracks in bolts, extender assemblies, even a M203 barrel too narrow for a grenade to fire through," SGT Wallace said.
While the work can be quite mundane and repetitive if all of the weapons are in good shape, there are some major inherent perks to the job. "I am just making sure that the Soldiers are safe. Imagine a M240B or M249 having a problem firing a round and blowing up on a Soldier. I obviously don't want that to happen, and I make sure it doesn't," said Wallace.
Wallace entered the Army in September 1998 and joined Echo Company in November 2007.