By Spc. Alexis HarrisonJanuary 31, 2007
BAGHDAD, Jan. 30, 2007 - Mechanics from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have been setting the pace for how a support platoon operates.
When they took over operations from the 4th Battalion Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), the platoon had more than 30 vehicles in need of repair. Not only did they catch up on their own vehicles, they've taken on the job of servicing more than 700 vehicles from all the different coalition elements on the base. How do they do it' Hard work, long hours and pride in their mission.
"Most of the auto mechanics we have, take a lot of pride in the work that they do ... not only turning out product for the battalion but for all the other people on the forward operating base," said Warrant Officer Shane Steele, the 3-82 mechanic technician from Camden, Tenn.
The 19-soldier platoon maintains more than 100 vehicles just for the battalion. Humvees, cargo haulers and the battalion's claim to fame: the massive Paladin.
While many of the mechanics never touch a mobile howitzer, many have never even worked on a Humvee before becoming a part of 3-82. Pfc. Justin Cassella from Fairmont, W.Va. said that although he's a generator mechanic, working on the armored Humvee gives him a good opportunity to learn.
"I worked on vehicles before I joined the military," Cassella said. "I didn't want to do it again, but this gives me good experience. I learn more and more every day."
His platoon sergeant cited good attitudes like Cassella's, as one of the main reasons the shop is so successful.
"Dedication and hard work are just what these guys are made of," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlton Parkhurst, a Sarasota, Fla. native. "The best thing is, is they catch on quick. You show them how to do something once and they got it."
On any given day, the soldiers could see a plethora of different taskings. Sometimes it's scheduled maintenance. Sometimes it's a broken - down vehicle. But Steele said the soldiers are flexible enough to handle anything.
Parkhurst reminisced about a time he was a private and he said "I'm a Paladin mechanic." Someone else quipped, "No, you're just a mechanic."
Steele said now that they've brought all the vehicles back up to standard, the shop has begun its normal maintenance schedule on all the battalion's trucks. He said usually, every three days another four trucks will come in for a quarterly inspection or an annual inspection to keep them in fighting shape.
Even the Georgian Army soldiers stationed on the base have reaped the benefits of the shop's "can-do" attitude. Steele said the Georgians' trucks went from getting no maintenance, to getting serviced, to having a fully-operational force since the 3-82 mechanics arrived about a month ago.
Although the shop's mission seems large already, they still have duties other than repairing trucks and tracks. They still have soldierly duties to fulfill.
"The biggest challenge we have is everyday missions like FOB security and troop- to-task missions on top of our heavy workload," Steele said. "Just trying to keep the balance of the right amount of people in the motor pool while maintaining everything else the battalion needs along with the maintenance we already do is tough, but we get it done."
Sometimes working well into the night is just a part of the routine the shop goes through. Although they work long hours, they still find time to work on projects that are for the lighter side of life.
Sgt. John Klempnow, the battalion welder from Detroit, has been putting together a dune buggy of sorts from spare parts and steel. He also takes on projects like the flagpole that stands in front of the palace at FOB Prosperity.
Steele said he's heard nothing but rave reviews for his shop. Humbly, he said it's all thanks to the soldiers and noncommissioned officers just doing their jobs correctly. He would know. He was a support company's top NCO while in Germany before he became a warrant officer. There he won his first award for maintenance excellence, and he said it was all thanks to the soldiers.
Steele hopes the good work pays off. They recently missed the deadline for the coveted Army Maintenance Excellence Award, but he said they'll be sure to submit their claim next year when they return to Fort Hood, Texas.