By: Sgt. Aaron LeBlanc
165th CSSB, 1st Sust. Bde.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - As part of a nationwide push to improve the logistics capabilities of the Iraqi Army, Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 165th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion initiated a program aimed at improving the technical savvy of Iraqi Army mechanics of the 6th Motorized Transportation Regiment.

The 165th CSSB, a Louisiana National Guard Unit out of Bossier City, La., is deployed to Iraq under the 1st Sustainment Brigade.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Beal, a native of Bossier City, La., and the head mechanic with 165th CSSB, explained that the biggest challenge facing the mechanics of the 6th MTR is the hard time they have procuring replacement parts.

"Part of the problem," Beal said, "is that they have trucks from Germany, the U.S., Italy, U.K., Russia and from any number of other places. It's great that everyone's giving them equipment, but now they need replacement parts for vehicles from all over the world.

"They've also had a hard time getting their hands on instruction manuals printed in Arabic for U.S.-manufactured Humvees and German-manufactured five-tons," he said.

In the past, the lack of manuals meant the Iraqi mechanics repaired the unfamiliar equipment by trial and error. It also meant ordering replacement parts was problematic at best. Without parts numbers to reference the needed components, the Iraqi mechanics instead had to rely on a generalized written description of the part.

"For example," Beal said, "on a German five-ton there is a valve on right side of the engine. So the guy at the parts warehouse boxes up a valve - any valve that happens to be in stock from the right side of the engine - and sends it."
These are examples of problems that 165th CSSB is helping to correct. Not only have they provided the 6th MTR with several much-needed Arabic repair manuals, the 165th's mechanics are working closely with their counterparts in the 6th to encourage a more aggressive approach to maintenance.

"They have good mechanics," said Beal, who has worked as a mechanic for his entire professional career. "And some of them are very good. But they've never been taught to conduct what we call 'preventive maintenance.' That's what we're focusing on training them to do. Instead of waiting for something to break, we're teaching them to maintain what they have in order to keep it from breaking in the first place."

Beal went on to explain that often, the Iraqi mechanics focus on the biggest possible cause of a problem. Rather than first checking the starter on a truck that won't start, they might assume instead that the entire engine is in need of replacement. This is another situation that the 165th's mechanics are working hard to improve and are achieving small victories every day.

Since 165th CSSB's current push to improve the mechanical skills of its Iraqi counterparts began last month, the 6th's mechanics have displayed an earnest thirst for knowledge and an ability soak up valuable lessons at a rapid pace.

"In the beginning, they might have asked us to fix a problem for them. Now they're asking us for the tools to help themselves," Beal said.