514th is jack-of-all-trades for JBB
August 19, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - With a mission "unlike" any other ordnance company assigned to Joint Base Balad, the Soldiers of the 514th Ordnance Company, out of Fort Drum, N.Y., have learned to adapt as they perform a myriad of missions not organic to their organization.
The 180-man company operating here and at Contingency Operating Location Speicher, Iraq, runs an artillery support center, a woodshop, a metal fabrication shop, and other direct support shops that manage mechanical missions from performing preventative maintenance checks on vehicles, to changing out large components, to providing maintenance support to convoys passing through JBB, said 1st Sgt. Vincent L. Autry.
"This is a really large mission," he said. "We're a maintenance company, so pretty much anything that needs repair - weapons, electronics, vehicles - we are capable of repairing."
Autry said the company is highly diverse, but works well as a team to accomplish each mission efficiently.
One of their most grueling missions is heavy equipment transport trailer repair, which takes a team of 10 Soldiers an average of 20 days per trailer, Autry said.
The unit is also responsible for repairing connexes across base and other parts of Iraq in preparation for the drawdown from the country in the coming months, Autry said.
Across from the connex repair group, the unit's metalworkers fabricate flagpoles, grills, hazardous material cages and other unit requested items.
Allied Trades, as named by the Army and managed by Staff Sgt. Margaret A. Armstrong, of Hazelton, Pa., has grouped together metalworkers, machinists and woodworkers to ensure all requests are completed and delivered.
She said this diverse group includes an artist and rapper, a work horse, a good old southern boy and a number of other characters who make the job entertaining.
"We have every imaginable personality," she said.
Spc. Dominick C. Brown, the artist and rapper from Los Angeles who painted the unit's T-wall, said this is his third time in Iraq and he enjoys the increased level of organization this time around.
He said the unit knows how to enjoy their work as they do it.
"It can get exciting," he said. "We like to have fun, but at the same time, do work."
Brown's woodworking counterparts find fun in special projects, such as replicating an old wooden chair without a blueprint.
Sgt. Steven L. Gorzell, from Lake City, Calif., is building a curing box to allow varnish and lacquer to dry more quickly by using Plexiglas to block dust and use sunlight to speed the drying process, he said.
"There's not a whole lot we can't do," he said. "We've done roofing, construction, furniture, glass ... a dominoes board."
Gorzell, who has done this work on three deployments, said he had to buy his tools in the past, but fell in on a good shop with useful equipment on this deployment. He said he appreciates the hand-me-down shop and the two Soldiers he works with there.
Down the road, the unit's artillery support center provides small arms and field artillery support along with fire control, said Sgt. Joshua J. Cardwell, from Scranton, Pa. He said his office may soon help convoys as they pass through JBB's Small Arms Support Center
"Small arms goes from .9mm to 25mm on the Bradleys," he said. "They're contemplating starting up that (quality assurance/quality control) mission where we'll take over the weapons portion of that too, for convoys coming in through the gate."
The 514th's Soldiers at the SASC also service and exchange weapons for units that pass through JBB, Cardwell said.
Although their missions are wide-spread and varied, Autry said he has complete faith in his unit's ability to complete them.
"We're willing to provide support to anyone on JBB, as well as anyone that passes through JBB and needs assistance," Autry said. "As far as the mission, we're going to succeed. That's just how this company is."