The grumble of engines and whine of power tools requires everyone to talk a little louder here. Marines in dirty coveralls move from one piece of machinery to the next, turning wrenches, popping hoods and running complex diagnostics tests.
The busy tent city sprawling over several acres of Camp Fallujah is the new home for more than a hundred Marines with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group. They deployed here late February to relieve CLB-8.
About 100 Marines in the company provide direct support to the infantry battalions in Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division. They also support other units and organizations at Camp Fallujah, as well as military and police transition teams working with the Iraqi Security Forces around Fallujah.
If it breaks, chances are good they’ll have a hand in fixing it.
They repair everything from field radios and tracking devices to rifle scopes and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, said Gunnery Sgt. Ronald C. Manning, a 39-year-old from Corbin, Ky., maintenance chief for 2nd Platoon, Maintenance Company.
Their three-day changeover with CLB-8 went smoothly, Manning said. The Marines in the company were able to make a seamless transition, picking up right where the outgoing unit left off.
“We have the same equipment out here as we do (at Camp Pendleton, Calif.),” said Cpl. James A. Steele, a mechanic with 1st Platoon. “And we’re able to do organic and intermediate maintenance.”
The Marine Corps categorizes maintenance into four echelons, or levels. The first level covers preventative maintenance, such as checking fluids and keeping the equipment clean. This is the responsibility of the individual operator.
Maintenance Company handles “intermediate” and “organic” maintenance, which are the second and third levels. This includes everything from basic troubleshooting to major components, such as engine replacements.
“We have the general policy that we don’t go home at night until everything is complete,” Manning said. “At the start of the day, we’ve already completed everything we had come in the day before, so we actually have to wait for the first customer – the first war fighter – to drive through (with a request).”
If the equipment’s in such disrepair that it needs rebuilding, it’s hit the fourth level of maintenance and is shipped to Camp Taqaddum, Manning said.
The Marines of Maintenance Company not only maintain and repair gear, they improve it.
Sgt. Michael S. Blount, a quality control specialist with 1st Platoon, is the duty expert on the new “survivability kits” being added to the Marine Corps’ seven-ton, personnel trucks.
“It’s purpose is exactly what it’s name implies,” said Blount, 23, from Vancouver, Wash. “It increases the survivability of the vehicle and the passengers inside.”
He’s the noncommissioned officer in charge of an Intermediate Maintenance Activity (IMA) team responsible for adding armor to the truck. They also add plates to the brake and drive-train components, allowing the vehicle “to take a hit and maintain mobility and control,” Blount said.
In the event that an IED attack damages the fuel tank, the kit deploys an absorbent foam to avoid potentially explosive hazards.
Many Marines in the company are on their first deployment, and some of those working with MRAPs did so for the first time in Iraq. Having a good team of civilians and the ability to fall back on general vehicle knowledge has helped the Marine mechanics make necessary adjustments.
Steele is expecting to perform routine maintenance on quite a few MRAPs during his seven-month tour. “I knew pretty much everything after three or four days,” said Steele, a 20-year-old from O’Fallon, Mo.
Imagine what he’ll know in three or four months.