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Marine mechanics fix trucks while making life easier for operators

9 Aug 2006 | Cpl. Stephen Holt

Working in a series of massive tents erected on an open corner of this desert camp surrounded by baby powder fine sand, a group of Marines responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of vehicles have been playing a crucial role in making sure logistics operations continue uninterrupted.

The Marines of Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, have the task of ensuring the battalion’s battle ridden vehicles remain in top running condition and are able to support the Marine infantry units scattered throughout the Fallujah area.

The battalion provides direct support to Regimental Combat Team 5 and conducts a variety of operations that helps keep their grunt brothers in this volatile section of Iraq. Daily combat logistics patrols – as the Marines call their convoys – take place around the clock with missions like resupply convoys, road repair and engineer work to build and fortify combat outposts for U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Without the stock of well running vehicles made possible from Maintenance Company, Marines would have to go without this support for extended periods of time.

“If it wasn’t for mechanics, a lot of these trucks that go on the road wouldn’t be (operating),” said Gunnery Sgt. Ruben Sanchez, the company’s maintenance chief, and 35-year-old native of Aurora, Ill.

To date, the company has replaced more than 20 humvee engines, performed countless hours of everyday maintenance required to keep vehicles moving in such a harsh environment, and are even tasked with installing vehicle armor and protective gun turrets.

“A lot of people think that all (we) have to do is change the oil, change the filters and put air in the tires,” he continued, but most of the work takes place behind the scenes and away from the public eye.

An example of those behind the scenes efforts is evident in the company’s metal working department where welders and machinists work long shifts that keep their shop open 24 hours a day.

Most people think that welding is only operating a blow torch, said Lance Cpl. Jeffery D. Autin, a metal worker with the maintenance company and a 23-year-old native of LaPlace, La.

What people don’t see is all the measuring, cutting and metal grinding that must be done before welding take place, explained Autin, who plans to open his own welding shop once his Marine Corps service is complete.

The Marines of Maintenance Co. are doing more than just simply making sure the equipment operates efficiently. They are also taking the initiative to improve the life of vehicle operators traveling the dangerous roads of Iraq.

Sanchez and his fellow maintenance Marines recently developed a new stand for turret gunners who brave roadside bombs and enemy ambushes while sticking out the top of the cab of the Marine Corps’ hefty seven-ton transport trucks.

Due to the cramped space of a seven-ton’s interior cab, truck drivers repeatedly hit their elbows while turning the steering wheel on the machine gun platform where the gunner stands. With the help of Marines like Autin, Sanchez developed a small, more convenient mount they call the A. S. Stand, using Autin and Sanchez’ initials.

The improved machine gunner’s stand, still in the developmental stages, aims to make the truck driver and machine gunner jobs' easier. Its design also enables turret gunners to exit the vehicle faster in the event of an emergency, making the stand safer for Marines.

The project reflects the caliber of Marines performing critical maintenance on the vehicles, said Warrant Officer Julio O. D’Trinidad, the officer-in-charge of maintenance. 

It shows a great deal of initiative and desire by the Marines to improve existing products in use throughout the Marine Corps, he added.

Nearing an end to a seven month deployment doesn’t mean an end to the maintenance mission. With ongoing security operations pushing the battalion’s vehicles to the brink in such an austere environment, keeping them well maintained and ready for the next mission will continue to be a responsibility until the day Maintenance Co. leaves.

The Marines in the unit continue to impress their company commander, Capt. Sean J. Collins, who said his Marines support combat operations in the Al Anbar province by keeping trucks on the road and continuing to improve the equipment used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Contact Cpl. Stephen Holt at stephen.holt@cssemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil
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