CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Marines with Electronic Maintenance Platoon, Maintenance Company, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Support Battalion 11.2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) work on, trouble shoot and repair everything from computers and printers to tactical radios and calibrating machines.
Since their deployment to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, began in September 2011, the Electronic Maintenance Plt. has serviced and fixed more than 8,000 items and has saved the Marine Corps more than $330,000 by fixing equipment in country vice shipping it to the United States.
“We provide intermediate maintenance support,” said Chief Warrant Officer George Forbes III, the Electronic Maintenance Platoon Commander. “The Marines can probably trouble shoot or fix about anything.”
Forbes said that while they have completed many repairs while forward deployed, his Marines sometimes put in extended work hours to get the mission accomplished.
The Marines in Electronic Maintenance Plt. have also found a way to turn their hard work into something that will last a lifetime. The Marines will not only return to the U.S. with their own ‘war stories,’ but they very well may return home with an apprenticeship certificate.
All of the junior Marines and noncommissioned officers in the platoon are enrolled in the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program, giving them an opportunity to earn an apprenticeship certificate for the work they complete in a combat zone.
According to the USMAP website, the program provides active duty Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are on active duty.
In addition, the website states the USMAP will issue Department of Labor registered apprenticeships and Certificates of Completion once the service member has logged the appropriate number of hours.
With more than 120 trades offered by the program, most service members are eligible to participate.
“The whole purpose behind the apprenticeship program is to give these Marines the same type of credit as their civilian counterparts would receive,” said Gunnery Sgt. Samuel Paulk, electronic maintenance chief, Electronic Maintenance Plt. “By completing this program, it will help make the Marines more competitive for promotion whether they stay in [the Marine Corps] or get out.”
“Anyone can do it as long as their job coincides with the apprenticeship,” Paulk said. “It takes all of five minutes to sign up, and then Marines are getting the same credit as they would if they were a civilian.”
According to Forbes, the maintenance Marines in his platoon are logging anywhere from 65 to 75 hours toward completion of their certificates each week in Afghanistan. Further, while some Marines may not finish the apprenticeship while deployed, they are glad they signed up for the program.
“I found out about the program out here,” said Cpl. Kyle Alling, a circuit card repair technician, Electronic Maintenance Plt. “[USMAP] is setting me up for success. Even if I can’t complete it all [in Afghanistan], this is still a good head start.”
For some of the trades offered in the apprenticeship program, service members must log 8,000 hours to earn their certificate. However, the USMAP prorates time for members joining after serving on active duty for a number of years.
“Marines who are just starting the program but who have been on active duty for a while can actually start at 50 percent complete,” Paulk said. “[USMAP] has a formula to make sure Marines don’t get cheated out of hours they have already completed.”
Whether Marines have been in the military for five months or five years, USMAP will ensure they are credited for the work they have already accomplished.
According to Paulk, once Marines sign up for the apprenticeship program, they are required to log their hours each week. Once a month, the Marines must have their supervisor sign off on their hours, and then semi-annually their platoon commander or commanding officer will have to verify the hours logged.
“It’s a very easy program to use,” said Lance Cpl. Raymond Zemcik, a test measurement and diagnostic equipment technician, Electronic Maintenance Plt. “It’s a win/win – whether I stay in or decide to get out [of the Marine Corps].”
“When Marines sign up for the program it shows commitment,” Paulk said. “It shows to their leaders they want to learn all the gambits and understand the full spectrum of the job.”
For more information about the USMAP, visit their website at www.usmap.cnet.navy.mil.