By Sgt. Thomas DuvalOctober 10, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. - The sound of compressed tools filled the air inside a motor pool bay as mechanics meticulously disassembled and reassembled project after project.
The smell of burnt oil and old grease radiated from the mechanics' coveralls and boots.
Spare parts were scattered across the motor pool bay, concealed by the shadows of the massive Army vehicles.
For most soldiers, the scene was an unsolvable puzzle of parts, but to the mechanics assigned to the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, it was just another day putting their duty first.
For the past six months, the 3rd IBCT mechanics have worked around the clock to ensure the unit's legacy and war-fighting equipment keep rolling regardless of how big or small the mission.
On average, about 12 trained mechanics are responsible for servicing, repairing, and returning to duty more than 400 pieces of rolling stock, to include trucks, generators and trailers, Staff Sgt. Timbya Whitted, 201st BSB senior floor mechanic said.
"My team and I would like to think we can take on any mission and repair any piece of equipment necessary," Whitted added. "It's gotten to the point now where we don't think we can, we know we can."
To stay ahead of the overwhelming workload, Whitted often calls on his soldiers to begin their workday before the sun rises.
It's not an ideal mission but the noncommissioned officers do what they can to keep the morale high and to work as a team to remind them to put "duty first," Whitted said, echoing the part of the division's motto.
To keep morale high and his soldiers motivated, Whitted often reminds his younger mechanics how important their jobs are to the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.
"Not many people think about it but without mechanics the infantrymen would not be able to do their MOS (military occupational specialty) proficiently without their vehicles and equipment being maintained to a high standard," Spc. Dometrius Griffin, light-wheeled mechanic for the 3rd IBCT said. "A lot of care goes into working on vehicles. ... If the vehicles are not maintained to a high standard then someone or something can get hurt."
Griffin has learned to maintain his high standards under the leadership of Whitted, a 16-year veteran.
"I demand all of the soldiers that work with me to be very professional and maintain a very high standard at all times," Whitted said. "If they do sub-standard work, then they are risking other soldiers' lives, and I will not allow that to happen on my watch."
With the majority of the brigade deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Whitted and his team take pride in knowing the vehicles they work on could be called on at a moment's notice for combat.
"We stay motivated knowing any of the equipment we maintain can be sent downrange to help our brothers and sisters in arms and we want to make sure that it's safe and well-maintained for their use," Whitted said.
With the 3rd IBCT scheduled to redeploy next year, the mechanics still have plenty of work to do to finish their mission on rear operations. The team plans to tackle the next few months one service at a time, ensuring there is no bolt unturned when potentially saving battle buddies' lives.