1st FSSG's gear maintenance, repair unit eases transition between rotating MEF units

24 Sep 2004 | Sgt. Luis R. Agostini 1st Marine Logistics Group

After more than seven months of wear and tear, many of the vehicles and equipment used by Marines in Iraq are screaming for new parts.

With more than 7,700 parts serviced since Marines returned to Iraq in March 2004, the 1st Force Service Support Group's Reparable Maintenance Company has experienced a spike in business during the rotation of I Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and Sailors over the past month.

Logging thousands of miles and dozens of firefights under their hoods, Humvees need everything, from engines to starters. Night vision goggles need maintenance in order for the Marine in a Fallujah firefight to see the enemy in a pitch-black environment.

Negligence is not to blame. The Marines headed back to their stateside bases have performed final preventive maintenance measures before turning the equipment over to their replacements and have annotated equipment in need of repair. Anything that cannot be fixed by the equipment operator is referred to RMC.

Headquartered here, RMC, a subordinate command of Combat Service Support Group-15 here, handles high-level maintenance on major warfighting products, and serves as an all-purpose repair shop for Marine forces in Iraq.

Traditionally, Marine Corps support units had separate sections handling electronics, optics and vehicle maintenance, said Capt. Paul Zacharzuk, RMC's commander.  Now, one command handles all maintenance and repair concerns.

The following actions are taken when gear breaks down in Iraq:

- A unit contacts its satellite RMC section, called a "sub-float," attached to the combat service support battalion in that area.  Most of the time, the sub-float will have the requested item on stock and re-supply the unit. 

- The item in need of repair then gets sent on a re-supply convoy to the RMC, where Marines specializing in repair of the particular piece refurbish it.

- The fixed part is then stocked at the Repairable Issue Point, ready for reissue.

If the CSSB cannot supply a unit with what they need on the spot, RMC is contacted, which will draw the gear from the RIP and convoy the equipment back to the unit.

For example, if a Humvee broke down in Al Asad, Iraq, one of CSSB-7's sub-floats would try and fix the problem on site. If they could fix it or supply the unit with a new part, they would send the damaged part to RMC, who would refurbish it and stock it at the RIP. If not, they would send a request for a new part. The RMC would then convoy the new part to Al Asad.

During the heavy fighting in Fallujah this past spring, RMC made an emergency run to replenish equipment. 

"That was the 9-1-1 block that went out. They took high-moving items that were repaired here in our shops and did a swap-out on site," said Zacharzuk.

During the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, separate electronics, supply and maintenance battalions supported the swift-moving units as they invaded Baghdad, leaving little time to establish a permanent facility to service their Corps customers.

"Last year they fixed it as they went.  Now we have a set base where we have the opportunity to conduct in-depth repair," said Zacharzuk.

Experts in the supply field realized the need to consolidate maintenance and supply assets based on OIF's early history, and designed more compact units to streamline service to and from units throughout Iraq.

Since RMC-type maintenance and repair is new, new procedures have forced Marines to adapt to the new ways of doing business.

"The guys here have to get used to it and understand that the focus is on the customer," he said.

With a personnel rotation of their own, the maintenance unit has had its own share of issues to deal with, while keeping customer satisfaction up, such as teaching the unit's new arrivals how to perform certain repairs and maintenance.

But Zacharzuk ensures that quality and service will not decline.

"There's not really a drop-off in service, but more with our procedures among ourselves, and how things are done out here," said Zacharzuk.

"Many Marines joining RMC will be repairing and rebuilding their first engine," he said.

Fortunately, RMC has 20 experienced Marines who have volunteered to stay with the unit seven more months and to assist the new crew.

Corporal Erwin E. Kanins, an equipment calibrator with RMC, extended his enlistment contract to support his unit for another seven months.  He believes that Marines with prior experience in Iraq develop a sixth sense, which helps Marines new to the unit.

"We've been on convoys, we know how to use the equipment here and how to do things out here," said Kanins, a 23-year-old Lawton, Okla., native.

One thing that will ease the turnover is help from the units requesting maintenance and repair. Marines need to address their concerns to get the service they need, said Zacharzuk.

"One of the things we got from our outgoing commander is 'help me help you.' Launch your requirements to us and we will take care of you, regardless of where you are" he said.
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