JOINT BASE ELMENDORF- RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Few things are more important to a unit's readiness than vehicle care and maintenance.

In Alaska, with its extreme sub-arctic temperatures, maintenance is particularly important, as well as challenging.

Two mechanics from the Forward Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, recently conducted repairs of an engine with a Class III leak that saved the Army thousands of dollars.

They also identified a critical omission in existing Army technical manuals that triggered corrective action at the Department of the Army level.

Mechanics in the motor pool had discovered four vehicles with the Class III leaks, which the Army defines as "seepage of fluid great enough to form drops and drip during inspection."

This deficiency deadlines a vehicle, making it non-mission capable. Mechanics weighed the options of buying a new engine for almost $25,000 or spending around $1,700 in replacement parts to fix the engine leaks.

The decision was ultimately made to attempt to fix the Class III engine leaks, rather than replace the engines. Spc. Adam R. Powell and Spc. James D. Johnson, both light wheel mechanics from the Forward Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, were immediately identified out of more than 34 mechanics in the Battalion as the best mechanics for the job.

"My two guys, Powell and Johnson, they got picked for the job," their supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Jerome A., Shackelford, said.

"Basically Powell is one of the No. 1 mechanics we have and he got picked for an inspector slot, which is usually reserved for a staff sergeant," Shackelford said. "Johnson came in because he's another one of our top mechanics. This is a no-fail mission and we know that they won't fail the mission."

Powell was a mechanic who worked with Caterpillar Inc. before he joined the Army. He joined the National Guard in 2005 and then went active duty in January 2009.

"I wanted to do something meaningful with my life," Powell said.

After he joined the Army his supervisors were impressed with his job performance and quickly realized his potential and talent.

Johnson, a Channelview, Texas, native, was recognized for his exceptional skills as well.

Johnson explained the temperature dictates how long to let the vehicle run before driving.
"When it's cold like this (15 degrees), anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes," Johnson said. "Let the engine warm up, let the fluids get moving, otherwise it's possible to crack the head gasket and it's going to leak," he said.

Powell and Johnson performed a complete replacement of one engine's head gasket, oil pan gasket, front main seal, and O-ring on the fuel pump. The mechanics are working on their second engine and have two more to go.

The jobs take between five and seven duty days to complete, due to the intricate parts and assembly. After all four engines are repaired, the Army will have saved close to $100,000.

During the repairs, the mechanics noticed vital torque specifications weren't covered in their in technical manuals, or TMs, as their repair manuals are called. They brought this to the attention of their senior automotive technician, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brendan W. Kallenbach.

"In addition to doing the actual repair, they recognized in the actual repair manual that the torque specs weren't in the TMs any longer," Kallenbach said. "They made a recommendation to the Tank and Automotive Command, so now the entire Department of the Army is going to put the torque specs for the engine in there."

Johnson and Powell were both recommended for the Army Achievement Medal for their exceptional performance.

Capt. James S. Kwoun, 6th Engineer Battalion, contributed to this story.