CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Adapt and overcome is a common phrase in the Marine Corps, and Cpl. Sean Castillo, a welder with Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion (-) Reinforced, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), is embodying those words everyday in Afghanistan and saving the Marine Corps millions of dollars while doing so.
Castillo, 23, a native of Yuma, Ariz., is the son of a retired Marine and the brother of an Army Ranger. He joined the Marine Corps to serve his country and do his part. He became a welder because he loves the trade.
“I had a job prior to joining the Marine Corps as a welder,” Castillo said. “So I think that made it easier for me to excel in this job.”
Every since he first became a Marine, Castillo has stood out as a welder. He graduated at the top of his class during military occupational specialty school and received a meritorious promotion to the rank of lance corporal.
Last year, Castillo deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and was responsible for replacing suspension systems on M1 870 trailers. The M1 870 trailer is the Marine Corps’ biggest hauler. These trailers can carry up to 80,000 pounds of gear, equipment, supplies and even heavy armored vehicles throughout the battle space.
“On my last deployment, I was in charge of changing out the suspensions on the [M1 870] trailer,” Castillo said. “The terrain in Afghanistan is particularly brutal. I ran thousands of welds last deployment.”
Castillo is once again at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, and once again working on the M1 870 trailer. While the suspension systems for the trailers currently in Afghanistan have been replaced with more effective ones, another maintenance issue for these trailers is the welds. When hauling up to 40 tons of equipment over hundreds of miles of rough Afghan terrain, welds begin to crack and leave the trailer inoperable.
When Castillo and his fellow Marines in the metal shop at Maintenance Co. receive trailers with cracked welds, they do not consider it a combat loss. Instead, he and his Marines find ways to fix the broken trailer and get it back to the deployed units. The welders and machinists work hand in hand to accomplish the mission.
“Some things we do are pretty elaborate,” Castillo said. “When [machinists and welders] collaborate, it makes for a pretty professional product.”
When trailers with cracked welds arrive at the metal shop, the Marines do not cover up the problem by just adding an additional weld. The welders take the time to grind out the previous weld and replace it with a new one that is capable of supporting 110,000 pounds per square inch. Additionally, the Marines put three times as many welds on the troubled areas.
“Instead of repairing the cracks, we undo the weld and ensure it’s done right,” Castillo said. “It only takes us about 12 hours of labor time.
“These trailers are the Marine Corps’ work horse. It’s important to have them up and running, and that’s what we came here to do.”
Since arriving in Afghanistan in late March, Castillo and his section have repaired 10 M1 870 trailers. Sending these trailers back to the U.S. to be fixed would cost the Marine Corps approximately $60,000 a piece. By fixing the trailers in Afghanistan, the metal shop is not only saving millions of dollars, but keeping mission essential equipment in the fight.