HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
“When you have a [mechanically inclined] mind and you are familiar with how an engine works and how a vehicle works, you can solve a lot of the problems and issues that come up on convoys, that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to [fix],” said Cpl. Jason K. Fricke.
Fricke, a 27-year-old motor vehicle operator with 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), developed his mechanical mindset over a lifetime of working on engines and vehicles of every sort.
His knowledge has been put to good use helping the Marines and sailors of 3rd Plt. maintain their vehicles and expand their motor transportation skill-set during the platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, said Sgt. Daniel B. Baker, loadmaster, 3rd Plt., Alpha Co., CLB-4.
“Passing on knowledge is one of my biggest focuses,” said Fricke. “I try to teach the Marines under me whenever I can … you never know when the smallest maintenance problem can become a larger issue on a [combat logistics patrol].”
Fricke was first introduced to the fundamentals of vehicle maintenance and repair while racing go-carts and quarter-midgets (smaller versions of go-carts) during his childhood in Long Island, New York.
“[Racing go-carts] was my introduction to engines and the principles of maintenance,” said Fricke. “It helped me understand the key concepts.”
A job working for an auto-repair shop advanced Fricke’s automotive skills and understanding before he enrolled at the Universal Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, where he received a degree in vehicle maintenance.
“[Going to UTI] took everything I had and put it into one basket,” said Fricke. “It fine-tuned all of the knowledge I had.”
Fricke applies his experience to his job, assisting in vehicle recoveries, trouble shooting mechanical problems and serving as the platoon’s assistant load master.
“Fricke has a very large knowledge base regarding heavy vehicles,” said Baker. “He can even do some of the second echelon maintenance, which is much more in-depth than what we typically do.”
The most recent 3rd Platoon mission provided direct tactical logistics support to a rearming, refueling and resupply point (R3P site) in support of Operation Branding Iron from May 27 to June 11, and tested Fricke’s maintenance capabilities in a demanding operational environment.
“When I was in [Marine Combat Training] digging fighting holes, I thought that we would never have to do this in the fleet,” said Fricke. “When we ended up having to dig fighting holes out here… it was a reality check.”
According to Fricke, the demanding operational environment, both at the R3P site and on the routes leading to the site, created an increased strain on the tactical vehicles, requiring the platoon to assume a proactive maintenance stance.
“The vehicles being in constant use and the terrain being as demanding as it was, we had to find time to do maintenance on the vehicles … even if it was all hours of the night,” said Fricke.
The CLB-4 Marines and sailors were able to work together with units of Regimental Combat Team 6 to maintain the tactical vehicles at the R3P site despite limited equipment.
“We had to work together and share what we had because we were all on the same mission and if one of us wasn’t combat ready, then none of us were combat ready,” said Fricke. “Whether it was as little as borrowing tires or sealant, or helping each other work on the vehicles, we all pitched in.
“All the Marines came together from CLB-4 and [the RCT-6 units] and completed the mission as it was tasked to us,” he added. “When we needed to push out to execute our runs to resupply and retrograde back to or from other [forward operating bases], all of the vehicles were ready so we were able to complete our mission.”