By Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 16, 2012
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. (July 14, 2012) -- Even the smallest problem, such as a faulty light, can potentially stop a transportation mission. From there, the problems only become bigger.
And for military troops participating in Operation Golden Cargo, a two-week nationwide logistics mission, finding and fixing those problems is a constant task.
Spc. Edgar Serrato of Pomona, Calif., a truck driver with the 729th Transportation Company, a Reserve unit, said he wouldn't feel secure if he didn't conduct his preventative maintenance checks and service before a drive.
"These motors go through a lot," Serrato said after climbing down from the cab of his M915 truck outside the National Guard Armory in Winnemucca, Nev. "They do run a lot of miles and they idle for hours sometimes."
While the Soldiers check their vehicles for anything ranging from damaged tires to low fluid levels, problems that they can't fix are brought to the maintenance tent sitting next to the trailer transfer point outside town.
Sgt. 1st Class Grace J. Winget of Holbrook, Ariz., the motor sergeant for the 1404th Transportation Company, Arizona National Guard, said her maintenance Soldiers are vital to the operation.
"If any issues come up, we have to be able to fix it," she said, citing malfunctions ranging from oil leaks to component failures. "We have to take care of all of that to make sure that we have enough vehicles to meet the mission. If we don't do that, we don't meet mission and the trucks can't roll."
The transfer site, a paved lot owned by the Nevada Department of Transportation, has no trees, no shade and is surrounded by desert. The high temperatures for the first week of the operation routinely rose into the hundreds.
The tent that serves as a maintenance bay provides an on-the-spot location for her maintenance section to make repairs. And by being on location, the section saves time that would otherwise have to be used to move trucks to another location for repairs, Winget said.
"We can work in whatever environment we need to, but the maintenance bay really helps to keep the Soldiers out of the sun -- out of the elements -- as much as possible when they're working on equipment," she said.
Other nearby tents on the site house the eight-person maintenance crew for the entire operation. The Soldiers only go to the National Guard Armory in shifts for food and showers.
"My maintenance guys are pretty dedicated and they want to stick as close as possible to their work area," Winget said.
Much of their work involves minor, but important, issues. If a light is burned out, or even if a truck was missing a mud flap, the truck violates federal regulations and cannot go anywhere, she explained.
Replacing blown tires is an issue that her mechanics constantly deal with, Winget said. The big problems, such as major oil leaks or broken turbocharger, come up once or twice a day on average.
"They're doing an outstanding job," she said. "Sometimes we have to work late last minute vehicle fixes that have to be done when they think the workday is over, but their attitude has been great."
Sgt. Robert L. Ross of Mesa, Ariz., a mechanic in Winget's section, said most of the problems they handle can be averted by using preventative maintenance checks.
"It finds the problems before you get on the road," he said.