FORT STEWART, GA - "Maintenance" soldiers from 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, took the initiative to set up the Unit Maintained Equipment Program, designed to take care of the "Vanguard Brigade's" equipment left at Fort Stewart, prior to the brigade's departure to Afghanistan in March 2013.

The UME programs are a part of the Army's transition from the left behind equipment programs which were generally manned and serviced by the Army Material Command, who utilized contractors to service unit's equipment during a deployment. It was not until recently the Army made the transition to UME programs, which would place the wrenches back into the hands of the soldiers.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wesley Cooper, a native of Florence, S.C., and the rear detachment UME chief with 703rd BSB, initialized the brigade's UME program with a goal to complete all the services for the brigade prior to its scheduled return in winter 2013.

"My philosophy involved shared resources," Cooper said. "If one battalion falls behind with the projected total number of completed services, shift mechanics from another battalion that is ahead on services."

Cooper worked with a team, comprised of 151 Vanguard soldiers from every battalion in the brigade, to help with the success of the UME mission.

When the program first stood up, the brigade was behind on 358 services with that number projected to increase. These services were needed for a variety of wheeled vehicles, generators, communication systems, and engineer equipment. Depending on the piece of equipment and the type of services needed, an individual repair or service could take anywhere from three days to a week to complete.

Four months after the brigade's combat tour departure, Cooper's efforts along with those of his Soldiers have paid off leaving the brigade's fleet of equipment with zero services needed at the end of June 2013.

Staff Sergeant Dealo Adams, a wheeled vehicle mechanic and the noncommissioned officer in charge of guiding the UME mission knows the positive impact the program will have once the Vanguard brigade returns to Fort Stewart. The plan allows the brigade to focus on one less task of the reintegration period.

"These efforts will help maintain the brigade's equipment and make sure it's fully mission capable and ready for use when needed for training and missions," said Adams, a Jacksonville, Fla., native.

"There is no denying the success in this program," Cooper added. "This proves the 4IBCT UME program was appropriately staffed and resourced."

The soldiers will continue to turn wrenches and complete services in preparation for the return of their comrades currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Regional Command - East, Afghanistan.