CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
In the blazing Afghanistan heat, Marine mechanics can be found turning wrenches, fixing the vehicles that help keep Marines alive.
Marines with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 (Forward), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), keep tactical vehicles up and running at the Intermediate Maintenance Activities lot and repair those that are damaged during operations in Afghanistan.
"We repair vehicles that got blown up when they're out on [combat logistics patrols] and we send them back out to the units once they're fixed," said Sgt. Daniel L. Lawton, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle floor chief with Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD).
Once a vehicle is damaged and brought to the IMA lot, it must go through an inspection process, explained Sgt. Jin Liu, quality control non-commissioned officer for the IMA lot, Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD). This is where the vehicle gets an initial inspection when it arrives and a final inspection before it is returned to its unit.
"These inspections are to ensure vehicles are up to standard before they go back out to the fight," said Liu, 26, from Sacramento, Calif.
The IMA lot is divided into three sections – M-ATVs, MRAPs and miscellaneous tactical vehicles – to speed up the repairing process, explained Master Sgt. Christopher R. Martinez, senior non-commissioned officer in charge of Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD).
Lawton, 25, from Norman Park, Ga., is in charge of the M-ATV repairing section. "Ninety-seven percent of the M-ATV's that come in here [have] IED-related [damage]," he said. "It's hard to look at the trucks when they come in because they were broken down to nothing. Our guys, they work really hard on these trucks to get them back out to the units. These Marines, they built it back to a finish product like it was before it was damaged."
"I feel really good about my job," said Lawton, who added he's seen mangled vehicles damaged by IED blasts come in for repair. "But when we asked the Marines that were in the trucks how they were; well, they walked away fine. So I feel good about putting the trucks back out there."
These mechanics work hard to get vehicles back out to operational readiness because they know that these vehicles can save the lives of their fellow Marines.
"I love my job," said Sgt. Illustrious S. Campbell, MRAP floor chief with Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD). "Our mission is very important because, hands down, MRAPs save lives. We've seen it first hand. We've seen it when it first comes in, see how big the damage was and the Marines walk out alive."
Replacing a vehicle can be costly – they can cost upwards of $1 million each – so the mechanics are able to save a lot of time and money by fixing the vehicles on-site.
"It costs to ship an MRAP out here," said Campbell, 28, from Dinwiddie, Va. "We can fix these trucks in country and get them back out to the fight."
The mechanics are doing everything they can to get these trucks back out to their units and keep the mission going.
Sgt. Robert R. York, 27, from Hartwell, Ga., miscellaneous vehicles floor chief with Maintenance Co., CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD), is in charge of fixing vehicles such as wreckers, Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, and 7-ton tactical vehicles. His Marines work day in and day out to fix broken vehicles.
"It's inspiring to see my Marines come in here and do this everyday 14-18 hours a day," said Martinez, 42, from Port Arthur, Texas. "They understand the bigger picture, so they always push the envelope."
According to Martinez, IEDs are the number one threat to vehicles in Afghanistan, but the mechanics keep the Marines rolling in life-saving vehicles. The mechanics might not hear "thank you" in person very often, but Martinez knows their job is important to the mission, and keeping Marines alive.
"Even though they don't hear it," he said, "they know that someone is grateful."