From low drag to high speed, soldier turns things around
December 18, 2012
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - Before he left home, Spc. Blake Stressman, 24, from Burlington, N.C., had a bit of a reputation - and it was not a good one. But with the help of senior leaders in his unit, Stressman appears to have turned his reputation around. He is now considered an ace mechanic, a hard worker and a leader.
Stressman, is a mechanic with the National Guard's 151st Engineer Company from Laurinburg, N.C., stationed at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. The unit is responsible for the maintenance of all the vehicles from two different route clearance patrols. It's a job that can sometimes have three or four trucks in need of service at the same time. The wrong decision regarding which truck to work on first can result in wasted time and man hours and can keep an RCP from being mission capable. In the shop, though, Stressman is good at making the right decision.
"In my absence, he's my shop foreman," said Sgt. John Strong, maintenance shop foreman, 151st Engineer Company.
Strong described Stressman as a guy with a "bad boy background" but said that Stressman has made a 180-degree turnaround with encouragement and mentoring.
"Before I left the house I got in a bunch of trouble in my civilian life and it kind of affected my military lifestyle and everybody was frowning upon it," Stressman said. "Figured out that if I kept going the way I was, I probably wasn't going to have a military lifestyle. So I figured it was time to change, to grow up a little bit."
"He's taken on a lot of responsibilities," Strong said. "He's selected for Soldier of the Month."
Strong also said that Stressman is a very good mechanic who even designed a combat lock for one type of vehicle.
"It's the tractor trailer," Strong said. "The doors keep falling open while the guys are out on route. He made a contraption that was very safe for them so the doors won't fly open anymore."
With Stressman's ability to make fast and accurate assessments of vehicle faults, good decisions regarding what to tackle first and his ingenuity, Strong said it was no surprise when Stressman was also selected to go before the Mechanic of the Quarter board - which will meet at Kandahar Airfield, Dec. 20.
"Only a top notch mechanic gets selected for that," Strong said.
Stressman will compete against five mechanics from five other units for the award in a competition that deals with more than just turning wrenches.
"We have to know the soldier's creed and the NCO's creed, all the army precautions, accident prevention and all the after action review stuff that it goes along with," Stressman said.
Additionally, in a timed event, each mechanic is given a hands-on task of troubleshooting and repairing a vehicle fault.
"It's a hard test," Strong said. "On short notice he has to learn a lot of things."
"As of right now I know I have a lot of studying to do," Stressman said. "By the twentieth, I think I'll be ready for it."
Neither Stressman nor Strong would speculate on the outcome of the event, saying only that they hope for the best. Regardless of the outcome, however, it's pretty clear to Strong that Stressman is a winner.
"He came a long way," Strong said. "I think he deserves the opportunity to be highlighted and let other soldiers see him. Smart guy. He's our high-speed soldier."