FORT BRAGG, N.C. - When Soldiers are deployed, the last thing they want to worry about is their equipment malfunctioning while they are out on a mission.

However, equipment sometimes does break. When that happens, Soldiers rely on their unit's equipment maintainers to repair the problems to accomplish the mission.

During their most recent deployment to Iraq, the paratroopers from Company B, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, helped make their unit's mission a success because of their excellence in maintaining the unit's equipment, explained Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fredrick A. Fuller, an electronic maintenance technician for the unit.

Those paratroopers were recognized for their hard work when they received the 2010 Secretary of Defense Field-Level Maintenance Award for small category during the Department of Defense Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., Nov. 17.
"At the beginning of the year, we won the Secretary of the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence which then allowed us to compete for the secretary of defense award that we went on to win for small category," said Fuller.

Moreover, the award is a way for the secretary of defense to put command emphasis on maintenance as well as encourage Soldiers to strive for excellence, Fuller said.

"As maintainers, the tip of the spear can't do their job if we are not out there fixing their equipment," Fuller said. "Soldiers can't roll out of the gate if their vehicles aren't working, they can't kill the enemy if their weapon is broken and they can't call for help if their radio is malfunctioning."

Private 1st Class Joseph A. Parchman, an all-wheel mechanic for the unit, couldn't agree more.
"In the deployment environment, especially Iraq, you need to have vehicles," Parchman said about the importance of his job.

For these maintainers, keeping up all their unit's vehicles was one of their biggest challenges during their deployment, Fuller said.

"The biggest challenge for me was the conditions," Fuller said. "The roads in Iraq aren't friendly, so the vehicles got pretty beat up."

After the vehicles were brought in for servicing, it was Soldiers like Parchman who were responsible for the actual repairs, he explained.

"As a mechanic, I look at the fact no one goes anywhere without us," Parchman said. "So it's really important that when the vehicles come in for repair, we figure out the issue and get it fixed and back out on the road as soon as possible."

Altogether, it was the work ethic and dedication of the junior enlisted Soldiers, who made this award happen, Fuller said.

"Honestly, it really is just an honor to have the secretary of defense level take a look at our unit and see all the good stuff we are doing," Fuller said.