CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Maintenance experts assigned to the Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait are an essential part of equipping the warfighter with the best and most reliable equipment available.
The battalion, part of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, manages Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 in Kuwait and maintains more than 6,700 pieces of rolling stock that are spread across multiple brigade sized equipment sets.
Maintenance on APS-5 equipment is performed by contractors, but the quality assurance programs are managed by Soldiers and Army civilians.
"It is extremely important to have subject matter experts for each vehicle platform performing the final quality assurance checks because this equipment must be ready to rapidly move from the warehouse to the warfighter," said Maj. Dianne Moncrief, support operations officer in charge, AFSBn-Kuwait.
The 401st AFSB provides materiel support for Army units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. As missions change and unforeseen requirements emerge throughout the theaters of operation, those supported units might need additional equipment.
"Our maintenance noncommissioned officers and warrant officers check all equipment assigned to be issued to ensure we are giving a high quality product to supported units and that the product meets strict Department of the Army standards," Moncrief said.
Supported units can request new equipment by submitting an Operational Needs Statement to the Department of the Army. An approved request for new equipment may potentially be sourced from APS-5.
"The amount of experience and expertise our mechanics have on all equipment in APS-5 gives me full confidence that we are issuing a quality product to the warfighter," Moncrief said. "I am able to sleep better at night knowing that the right people have verified the quality of the contractors' work and that the equipment is at peak readiness."
Staff Sgt. Anthony Allen is a career Bradley mechanic and serves as a Contract Officer Representative with the AFSBn-Kuwait. In his role as a COR, he oversees contracted maintenance as part of a thorough and comprehensive quality assurance program.
"Every component -- every nut, every bolt, every washer, every clip -- on a tank or a Bradley is there for a reason," Allen said. "There's a torque specification for all those things for a reason. We have to ensure that everything is done properly and nothing slips through the cracks."
APS-5 is currently transitioning from the Care of Supplies in Storage (COSIS) program to Combat Configuration, which reduces the time it takes to issue out equipment and allows for vehicles to receive more regular service.
Every time maintenance is performed on a vehicle or a vehicle is taken out of COSIS, the piece of equipment will undergo a routine service and inspection.
Combat configured vehicles are scheduled for standard annual services and inspections.
"These inspections may be routine, but we take every single one seriously and approach each one with focus and attention to detail," Allen said. "It's not only important to put the best equipment in the warfighter's hands, but it's important for that warfighter to be confident in the equipment and not constantly worry about breakdowns and system failures."
The quality assurance inspections include checking for leaks, loose bolts or parts, and confirming functionality of all the major systems and Soldier technologies.
The CORs also perform an engine health test, which checks air flow through the engine, fuel usage, and the internal engine brake system. The engine health test is performed using the vehicle's internal instrument displays, then double checked on a laptop using special diagnostic software.
"It's a 20 level maintenance test," Allen said. "The contractor does it, then we come in behind them and do it again to make sure the vehicle is ready for the warfighter."
Allen also conducts a "pulse test" as part of his inspection. The engine has a system that builds up pressure and pulses air outward in order to help keep the air filters clear of thick dust and debris.
"Out in this environment the thick dust and dirt can become a problem real quick, so it is essential that the pulse mechanism is functioning correctly and keeping the air inlets clear," Allen said. "I should get nine pulses in the span of one minute. That's a good indicator that the system is working properly."
An overall love for working on vehicles plays a big part in how maintainers approach their job, but the work takes on more meaning and higher stakes when Soldiers' lives depend the readiness of those vehicles, said Allen.
"The way I look at it is the Soldiers who end up with one of my vehicles down range, they are putting their lives in my hands," Allen said. "So if I'm not doing my job at the highest level right now, the outcome down the road could be catastrophic for somebody."
Allen has firsthand experience in seeing his work save a life. He served as a Bradley mechanic in Iraq in 2005.
During that deployment, the driver's hatch on one of the unit's vehicles wasn't functioning properly and had been problematic for a number of weeks, Allen said.
The driver's hatch is very heavy and uses a torsion bar system to counteract that weight and help the driver lift and open the hatch.
With the torsion bar system not working properly, the driver was forced to remove his protective gear and wedge himself in the driver's hole using all of his strength to gain enough leverage to open the hatch, Allen said.
Allen isolated the problem and fixed the torsion system so the hatch would easily spring open.
That vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device and caught fire on the following day. The driver was able to escape the vehicle quickly because the hatch was fixed the night before.
"That's why we do what we do and that's why it's important to take our jobs seriously," Allen said. "I fixed it. It opened just like it was supposed to, and that Soldier made it home to his family safely because maintainers did their jobs correctly."
As a COR with the AFSBn-Kuwait, Allen's responsibility is oversight, so he doesn't get to turn the wrenches himself.
"Obviously, I miss turning the wrenches myself while I'm here," Allen said. "Since we're not turning the wrenches but we're overseeing the contractors who are, it's been important for me to build a good working relationship and strong trust with the guys working in the bays."
The contractors are thorough and do great work, but it helps to have uniformed maintenance experts on hand to help identify the source of a fault within very complex systems -- saving time and money, and ensuring the highest level of readiness, said Allen.
"I've seen about everything there is to see with these vehicles during my 20 years of working on them, and the contractors know this is my bread and butter," Allen said. "So when I can say to them, 'check this part and this system along this specific line to isolate the problem,' they have that trust in me and it saves a whole bunch of time getting these vehicles ready."
As the Army strives to maintain high readiness levels throughout the force in support of current operations without sacrificing long-term future readiness, maintenance experts like Allen are actively passing their knowledge on to the next generation of maintainers.
"It's gratifying to know my work helps keep the warfighter safe and mission capable, but I also take a lot of pride in teaching and passing on this knowledge to the newer generations of maintenance and sustainment professionals," Allen said.
"Fortunately, the maintenance community is full of people who want to teach and people who want to learn," Allen said. "So we're doing really well at trying to ensure future readiness from our area of expertise."