By Summer BarkleyOctober 7, 2011
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Oct. 7, 2011)--They came to teach the science of vehicle recovery and instill trust in the mechanical advantage. They accomplished that mission in the heat and the mud and the blowing dust by training 174 Soldiers who qualified for the H8 Recovery Operations Additional Skill Identifier and conducting 19 new operators training courses across Afghanistan in support of the recently fielded M1249 MRAP Recovery Vehicle.
Instructors from the U.S. Army Ordnance School, Track, Metalworking, and Recovery Department at Fort Lee, Va. deployed to Afghanistan for just over six months were supported by the 401st Army Field Support Brigade's Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Directorate while completing their mission. The 401st AFSB is part of Army Sustainment Command's global network and the brigade ALT-D coordinates, synchronizes and integrates acquisition, logistics and technology planning and execution conducted by Program Executive Officers, Program Managers and other acquisition enablers.
"Soldiers come back all the time and tell us how much they learned," said Staff Sgt. Valjean F. Berlack, a Richmond, Va. native and H8 instructor. "They take the fundamentals and capabilities they learned in class and take it outside the wire."
Berlack was watching 11 Soldiers in the final H8 class manually recover a damaged MRAP from a mire pit. They used a compound tackle system, their muscles and the mechanical advantage to extract a more than 25,000-pound vehicle from a six-foot deep mire pit with about two feet of mud and water in it.
"It's fun to share your knowledge on something you're passionate about," said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan R. Myers, an instructor from Allentown, Penn. "It's great to see the look on their faces [the Soldiers in the course] when they realize their new skills -- they know they can move it [the vehicle] out themselves and they gain confidence in their equipment."
Berlack added that the instructors are learning a lot too and having battle damaged vehicles available for training is a "big advantage." He said they will take the lessons they learned in the field back to the classroom -- "we'll be assets."
"This is as realistic as training can get," Myers said. "It's a lot more than recovering a broken down vehicle. There are new challenges from IEDs [improvised explosive devices] blowing off front ends and suspensions, and the vehicles are heavier."
"You must compensate for the damage," Myers added. "You can't just hook and tow."