Motors, manuals and motivation
April 21, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The sound of an air compressor and the smell of grease filled a dimly lit bay while mechanics wearing coveralls concentrated over their work.
Three Soldiers hovered near a heavy equipment transporter vehicle and trailer, connecting the interface cable.
"The plate is upside-down and all bent up," said Spc. Luis Reyes, a wheeled vehicle mechanic from Dallas with B Field Maintenance Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, pointing at a round port about the size of a man's fist. "The cable won't go on right. I'm just gonna take it off so we can replace it."
The mechanics chatted as they worked, moving quickly from project to project. The Soldiers keep their skills tuned and attitudes positive by learning from each other and boosting their morale with camaraderie.
"Our guys work really good together," said Staff Sgt. Michael Witherow, the motor sergeant from Chattanooga, Tenn. "I've been in other motor pools where they don't get along, but I don't have any of those issues."
The mechanics love their jobs, and love working on tough projects. The relationships developed between the team helps them tackle big tasks.
"I love the bond I have between the other mechanics and the fulfillment of getting a big job done," said Spc. Kerry Jones, from Sarasota, Fla. "I like working on the HET because it's the biggest thing we have."
Many mechanics develop a knack for fixing things at a young age. From taking tools from their parent's garage and fixing the family lawn mower, to getting a radio for Christmas and promptly taking it apart to see the inner workings, some people are born and bred to work with their hands.
For Jones, he found his niche for tinkering as a teenager, and developed a taste for the Soldier's life through basic training, advanced individual training and upon his arrival at 3rd Brigade.
"I've wanted to be a mechanic since I was 16, but I didn't think I'd be doing it for the military," he said. "I love the military, though. I think I like the honor of the job mostly."
Working with military vehicles makes the job unique compared to being a mechanic in a city.
Witherow said his Soldiers work through problems among each other, so he usually puts an experienced specialist with a new private so one can shadow the other.
"They want to improve themselves by learning their jobs and by doing things themselves," he said. "The privates look up to the specialists and want to do what they do. They want to take their place."
Spc. Dante Battle has been with the company since 2008 and recently went to the promotion board for sergeant, earning "promotable" status.
He owns a paint and body shop in Los Angeles, so he had never considered enlisting until his brother said he caught "the bug."
"My family's been in the military since the 1800's. I had never really considered it, but that commercial kept coming on and I'd go into a trance," he said. "My country is important to me."
All over the Greywolf Brigade, Soldiers become leaders and later non-commissioned officers. The Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer guides men and women through their careers and beyond, shaping the way they conduct their lives at work and at home.
Battle said he intends to mold his Soldiers from the ground up, supporting and developing them into strong individuals and mechanics.
"Hopefully I can take part in teaching them their life lessons, you know, like personal finance. I want to support them whether they want to be family oriented or workaholics," he said. "The Army values are not just for the Army, but can be applied to life too."
Battle stood over the back-end of the trailer with the cable issue, using a voltmeter to test the electricity levels reaching the taillights. Nearby, Jones sat in front of the trailer's massive wheel-well, scraping the grime from a hubcap.
"Me and Jones work really well together," said Battle. "If we don't know how to do something, we'll figure it out. That's what I love to do, help subordinates and leaders with anything I can."