By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOJune 21, 2009
BAGHDAD - "We rolled up while it was still on fire," said Spc. Ariel Lain, from Wisner, La., remembering an event still vivid in his mind from his last tour in Iraq. "It took about three hours of rolling it to get it onto the recovery truck."
On that day in 2006, a Coalition forces truck hit an improvised explosive device and rolled into a ravine in Baghdad. The Soldiers exited the vehicle and radioed Lain and his fellow Company B, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment mechanics in order to recover it.
The B Co. mechanics haven't recovered any vehicles that were as badly damaged this tour, but they are getting plenty of other experiences this deployment to keep them sharp.
Their assignment as mechanics, stationed at Joint Security Station Sadr City, is multi-faceted. They do everything from quality control on humvees, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles and Bradley fighting vehicles, to welding and metal work, to recovering vehicles in hostile conditions.
"You have to recover those vehicles, because if you didn't, the enemy would know how the vehicles are made and where it's vulnerable," added Lain, a Bradley mechanic assigned to B Co. "You don't want to leave them anything 'cause you or your buddy could get hurt the next time out."
These mechanics ensure that when their fellow Soldiers do go out, they are focused on their mission and not worried about their vehicles breaking down, said Spc. Tyrone Bell, a Bradley mechanic and squad leader also assigned to B Co.
"We provide [quality assurance and quality control] on each truck to make sure there are no deficiencies, so they don't go out in sector and their truck breaks down on them," said Bell, from Chicago Heights, Ill. "We make sure it's fully mission capable at all times."
One of the main problems with the vehicles in Iraq is flat tires because of the poor road conditions, according to Lain. The mechanics work vigorously to lift the trucks and change out tires on a frequent basis, ensuring their teammates are always ready to roll.
"If they didn't have mechanics, I wouldn't know what they'd do," mused a sweaty Bell, while muscling a bolt back onto the hood of an MRAP.
The team atmosphere and companionship is strong among the infantry Soldiers and their mechanics. That's one reason why Lain re-enlisted in the Army after a break in service.
"I missed the tight-knit brotherhood and camaraderie you have here," expressed Lain. "Everybody helps everybody."
Throughout the day there is a constant flow of MRAP vehicles shuttling in and out of the dusty vehicle maintenance area, hardly giving the mechanics a moment to rest.
"I came into the military 'cause I was bored," said Bell as he wiped his brow. "I'm never bored now!"
Their quick and efficient work is rewarded with a few pats on the back and thanks from fellow Soldiers who bring in their vehicles, one after another.
"Oh well, we continue turning wrenches," said Lain about the constant and seemingly endless stream of vehicles in need of repair.
Lain knows that he and his fellow mechanics are appreciated, even if they don't receive much recognition for their time-intensive labor.
"Hey, if they ain't rolling," said a smiling Bell while removing an air-filter from under the hood of an MRAP. "They're walking. And I don't think they like to walk."