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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mission Success Relies on Maintenance Troops

Multi-National Division-Central Story

FOB KALSU, Iraq — “In order to have combat power you need to shoot, move and communicate. “We are the move part,” said an auto mechanic with 2nd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

The mechanics of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 26th Brigade Support Battalion, Fort Stewart, Ga., help ensure vehicles and equipment are combat ready when soldiers go on missions.

Readiness is monitored through weekly command maintenance, said Staff Sgt. Javier Castillo, non-commissioned officer in charge, Company B, 26th Brigade Support Battalion.

Such checks help reduce the chance of having a deficiency that may stop the mission or endanger lives.

“If equipment doesn’t work, the mission is over,” Castillo said. “Get to know your equipment, and make sure it is combat ready.”

The best way to get to know equipment is preventive maintenance checks and services, or PMCS.

“A PMCS determines deficiencies. Without one you don’t know what is broke or will break in the near future,” Castillo said. “When you lack a PMCS, you have to ask yourself ‘Is this combat ready?’”

While mechanics perform PMCS along with their command maintenance, weekly maintenance is often not enough because of the heat, dust and sand in Iraq.

“Some people rely more on the mechanics, and view us as a Jiffy Lube to take care of all their problems,” said Sgt. Sandra Muniz, Company B, auto section. “Thus, they get complacent.”

In Iraq, complacency can be deadly. It is important that units conduct their own daily vehicle inspections in addition to the mechanic’s checks, said the mechanics.

“You can save a lot of lives on missions from daily routines,” Muniz said.

“Each unit needs to take ownership of their equipment. It can save their lives,” Castillo added.

While individual soldiers may not be armed with the knowledge the mechanics have, the mechanics said it shouldn’t keep them from doing their own maintenance. To conduct a PMCS, the only thing a soldier needs is the vehicle’s technical manual, or TM.

Each TM contains a troubleshoot outline that operators can use to fix low-level problems, Castillo said.

“The TMs are simple, by the numbers,” said Sgt. Robert Monigan, another Company B, auto section mechanic.

“Whenever you work on a vehicle[, you] have the technical manual by your side. It takes care of a lot of problems,” Muniz stressed.

If a unit loses its manual, an electronic copy can be picked up at the motor pool. All a soldier needs to do is bring a disk to copy it to, Monigan said.

Once an operation has all the tools needed to do a proper PMCS, the operator should perform a PMCS before leaving on a mission, during mission downtime, and after completion of the mission, said Castillo.

“If you need to get out of a hotspot, you want your vehicle to be 100 percent,” he said, adding, the best way to maintain this percentage is to do a PMCS at these times.

Monigan knows from recent experience how important these checks are during missions.

Upon arrival at their destination, the crew did a control check and found a water hose leaking. By replacing the hose before rolling out, they prevented the vehicle from breaking down on the return trip, Monigan said.

Besides saving time, such actions may have also saved lives by not having to stop during the mission and possibly become a target.

Just as a soldier wouldn’t want to go on a mission without body armor or a properly functioning weapon, Castillo said soldiers should remember their vehicle is just as important and that they shouldn’t want to leave without it properly maintained and combat ready.

“Take care of vehicle, and it will take care of you,” Monigan said.

Photo - U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Marshall, Company B, 26th Brigade Support Battalion, tightens bolts that hold ballistic glass onto a gunner's turret. Daily inspections help keep vehicles combat ready. Multi-National Division-Central photo.

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