AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - Wrenches turned quickly and so did the second hand on the clock as Iraqi army soldiers showcased their vehicle maintenance skills while competing for their chance at the 'Best Mechanic Team' in Anbar, Iraq. The competition-held April 25-27 and known as a maintenance rodeo-was orchestrated as a culminating event for Soldiers of the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division who have advised and assisted these IA mechanics for the past 10 months.

The event was held at the Al Asad Air Base medium workshop and invited four teams of five mechanics from the 1st and 7th Iraqi Army Divisions and from the 9th Regional Commando Battalion (Iraqi Special Operations Forces).

"The purpose of the maintenance rodeo was to establish a subject matter expert in maintenance for each of the four Iraqi maintenance workshops," said Capt. Missy McNeill, officer in charge of the Sustainment Partnership Operations Center, 703rd BSB. "They will be the sustainment 'go-to' guys when the U.S. forces leave (Iraq)."

The three-day competition included a written test and then the mechanics were tested on their ability to identify maintenance faults on a Humvee, order replacement parts and repair the faults. Additionally, the teams had to rotate all four of the 80-pound tires-manually. The first team to complete all actions to standard was the winner.

The ISOF finished first and the other teams closely followed. A ceremony was held in their honor, April 28, and the top three teams received trophies, a new tool kit, certificates and skill identifier patches.

"This is an incentive to give and exert more effort to serve our brave army," said one of the Iraqi Army commanders during the ceremony.

Sgt. Michael Blanchard, with B Company, 703rd BSB and non-commissioned officer in charge of the rodeo, said he and his comrades took pride in knowing they had a major hand in helping progress their Iraqi Army counterparts.

"At first, they would just fix a broken part, but now we've taught them how to troubleshoot, how to use a technical manual and how to save time, manpower and money," Blanchard said about teaching vehicle maintenance tactics to the IA during his deployment. "But really, we learned a lot from them, just as they've learned a lot from us. It's been a great experience."
McNeill said she is proud of the overall success of the event.

"What I'd like to see is the IA replicating this event in the future, and make this maintenance rodeo an annual event," she said.