By Sgt. Jeannette TwiggFebruary 7, 2013
FORT MEADE, Md. -- A large wrench clanked on the concrete floor of a large motor pool floor as a mechanic momentarily released his grip as he slowly slid under a Humvee to replace a half shaft during battle assembly weekend Feb. 3.
Army Reserve wheeled mechanics assigned to the 200th Military Police Command spent the weekend in below-freezing temperatures to ensure vehicles of various sizes and classes were ready at a moment's notice.
Pfc. Dylan Meksomphone, from Townson, Md., is one of four newly trained mechanics who spent their Saturday morning under the M1165 up-armored Humvee with seasoned noncommissioned officers as mentors ready to take Meksomphone's school-house training to the next level.
"As an NCO, I take full responsibility to train our Soldiers to ensure they have the skill sets and resources to be successful," said Sgt. 1st Class Albert Edwards, maintenance supervisor.
Meksomphone worked on cars and motorcycles growing up in nearby Baltimore and said he joined the Army Reserve to further his skills.
Wheeled mechanics are highly trained and mentored during a 13-week school at Fort Jackson, S.C., that includes both intense classroom training and on-the-job training.
Working next to Meksomphone was Spc. Daniel Matamoros, who recently changed military careers to become a mechanic.
"I really enjoy working on cars, so I'm in school now for automotive technology and working as a technician at a dealership in Gaithersburg." said Matamoros.
The wheeled vehicle mechanic is primarily responsible for supervising and performing maintenance and recovery operations on wheeled vehicles and associated items, as well as heavy-wheeled vehicles and select armored vehicles.
The 200th MPCOM mechanics spent the busy weekend inspecting, servicing, maintaining, repairing, adjusting and testing the rolling inventory for the command headquarters, which has command and control of more than 14,000 warfighters across the United States. Additionally, the mechanics are skilled professionals who must also service automotive electrical systems including wiring harness, and starting and charging systems.
As Meksomphone repositioned himself to get a better angle to access to a bolt in a difficult location, Pfc. Nicholas Melchione, searched through a nearby tool box for another wrench to assist his team member.
"They must work together as a team," Edwards said. "Whether they are deployed or back at their home unit, mechanics quickly learn to rely on each other for assistance and expertise."
For one mechanic, the expertise comes from two tours in a combat zone and the pressure of ensuring the combat vehicles were ready when needed.
Pfc. Steven Vanleen, from Millersville, Md., supervised the four Soldiers who spent the morning under the Humvee.
"If you know what you're doing and you're doing it right, it usually takes from an hour to two to replace the shaft on this vehicle," Vanleen said. "I have four new mechanics here and they need experience repairing these vehicles."
As the crank shaft mission was completed, the mechanics said the operators were the first line of defense for maintaining the command's fleet of vehicles.
Before, during and after, Melchoine said Soldiers must inspect their Humvee and maintain awareness of any potential problems by performing regularly scheduled Preventative, Checks, Maintenance and Services.
"When Soldiers PCMS their vehicles it's important, because they find the issues for us to fix so that all the vehicles are safe to drive," said Melchione.
As the toolboxes were closed and locked and the cement floor was cleaned, the small band of mechanics talked about their busy weekend.
"This was a good training opportunity for the mechanics, and I want to be sure they're prepared in case they have to deploy downrange," said Vanleen.
Command Sgt. Maj. Kurtis Timmer, the senior enlisted Soldier for the 200th MPCOM, said every Soldier within his formations has a part of mission success.
"We have some of the best trained and skilled mechanics in the Army Reserve," Timmer said. "We ask a lot of our young mechanics, requiring them to do a job that means getting their hands dirty and often working behind the scenes. They are true heroes of this command, and we recognize the accomplishments of all our Soldiers who ensure the 200th MPCOM is the premiere Army Reserve major command."