Former U.S. president and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, once said, “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.”
Logistics has been the cornerstone of military operations since the inception of warfare. From providing Soldiers with everything from ammunition and transportation to food and water, logistical operations give military units the ability to “shoot, move and communicate.”
Just as essential as providing supplies and equipment is ensuring everything continues to function as intended once in the hands of Soldiers on the ground. The responsibility of maintaining equipment for the U.S. military in the Balkans falls upon the Area Support Group – Balkans Materiel Management Center’s maintenance team.
“We manage all the equipment that ASG-Balkans has and the equipment that (Regional Command East) has,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Timberlake, the MMC’s senior maintenance warrant officer. “Everything from weapons, to night vision, to tactical trucks, (non-tactical) vehicles, you think of just about every piece of equipment that we use, we help manage the upkeep of it.”
Probably best known for managing the fleet of vehicles used throughout their area of responsibility, Timberlake’s team provides maintenance support for approximately 38 different units operating in the Balkans, servicing more than 550 tactical vehicles and generators and more than 250 non-tactical vehicles, or NTVs.
“If we don’t do it, the vehicles don’t run,” said Timberlake. “Without us, you don’t ride.”
Timberlake, a 34-year veteran of the maintenance field, expressed great satisfaction managing maintenance for ASG-Balkans and working with his team.
“I enjoy it,” he expressed. “I’ve done it for 34 years and it’s what I know and I enjoy being a part of it.”
Timberlake reflected on the changes he’s seen in his career, from starting out keeping records with old-fashioned pen and paper to the advances in computer programs and networking used to manage maintenance today.
“When I first started all the records were kept on a DD-314 card,” he explained. “It evolved and went from there to (standard army maintenance system) and from SAMs (Global Combat Support System – Army).”
Working alongside Timberlake is Sgt. 1st Class Daniel S. Patterson, the maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge who echoed Timberlake’s passion for their line of work.
“I prefer working on stuff with my hands, but I enjoy managing and seeing how things work at this level or fixing whatever problems come along,” Patterson said.
Much of the maintenance conducted on equipment takes place at Camp Bondsteel, including tactical vehicle repairs, routine NTV maintenance, and even weapons, night vision and radio maintenance.
“We have specialties that each of us do,” said Timberlake. For example, “the armament guy who not only does armament but he also (maintains) night vision.”
The NCO responsible for the Army Maintenance Management System, or TAMMS, “deals with tactical the vehicle dispatches the tactical vehicle repairs,” he added.
However, there are times when damaged equipment must be sent out for repair, and that’s where the MMC maintenance team can help as well.
“If you have something down in your area that you needed fixed, it would come through us to get to where it has to go to get fixed,” Timberlake said. “In order to keep you from having to go figure out who does what, you just come here and we send the equipment (where it needs to go).”
Moreover, if a vehicle, whether tactical or NTV, were to break down outside the confines of a military installation, the maintenance team has the ability to dispatch a recovery team to go out to the break-down site, recover the vehicle, bring it back to base, and begin making repairs.
“If somebody’s out driving and they break down, no matter where it is, they just have to (contact) the battle desk and the battle desk will send a report up and the recovery team will go out to wherever you are,” Timberlake explained.
Timberlake said he wants people to know his office is responsible for more than simply managing the dispatching of vehicles and running the recovery team.
“That’s something people think maintenance specifically does, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s generators, it’s weapons, it’s night vision, and it’s radios. I want people to know that it’s more than just vehicle maintenance; it’s more than just the recovery guys. Your radio repair is just as important as everything else.”