CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq " Everyday items such as computers, air conditioners, MP3 players, hair dryers, coffee pots, shredders, lights and alarm clocks require constant, reliable power. Stateside, electric companies provide and maintain our power needs. In theater however, Soldiers provide and maintain our power needs.
Sergeant Michael Leal, a prime power specialist with Company B, 249th Engineer Battalion, is part of a two-Soldier team that oversees the power supply on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
On call 24/7, Leal is part of a team that maintains and runs generators, and a power plant with enough power to light up a small city.
Leal’s company falls under Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, and he ensures the United States Division " North footprint at COB Speicher has the power it needs.
“Whenever power goes out, we are the first ones they call,” Leal said. “We find the fastest way to bring the power back up.”
Recently, the “Prime Power” team was called to respond to an emergency at division headquarters where an electrical switch malfunctioned and caught fire.
After firefighters put out the fire, prime power and electrical contractors got to work to restore the main power to the headquarters building.
“We worked all day to get the power in headquarters back up,” Leal said. “It took a lot of planning and a lot of coordination to fix.”
Fifteen hours later the power was restored.
The prime power specialists respond to emergencies and also have a full-time job that includes planning, maintaining and servicing the electrical and power needs on base.
Leal is deployed out of Fort Bragg, N.C., as part of a platoon-sized detachment tasked with maintaining power throughout Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
“We act as a link between the government and the contractors that are hired to run the power plants in theater,” Leal said.
This is Leal’s second deployment with the 4th Inf. Div. His first tour occurred in 2005-2006. This is, however, his first deployment as a prime power specialist.
Leal decided to try something new after spending six years as an Apache helicopter electrician.
“I wanted something a little bit more challenging,” said Leal, a native of San Antonio. “I was looking for the most schooling.”
Prime power is an application-only Military Occupational Specialty open to the ranks of specialist and higher. Once accepted to attend the 12-month course, Soldiers learn their trade in a college environment.
The Soldiers are equipped with the same knowledge as a journeyman and an overhead lineman in the civilian world.
Leal plans to stay in the Army until retirement, and use what he has learned to transition to a highly technical civilian career.
Leal’s work ethic is what sets him apart as a noncommissioned officer.
“He is a sharp NCO,” said Staff Sgt. James Buensuceso, prime power NCOIC from Poway, Calif. “He takes initiative no matter what time of day it is.”
Leal received a coin from battalion commander Lt. Col. Matthew Tedesco in recognition of being chosen as the DSTB “Hero of the Week” August 8.
“It felt pretty good. I was surprised,” Leal said. “Since our main supervisor and platoon sergeant are at different locations, it is nice to have something to send back to them to show them that we are doing the right thing here.”