‘Vehicle Medics’ keep Special Forces’ convoys rolling in Central Iraq

Ravage

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http://sinepari.soc.mil/News/2008/June/SP-080616-01.html

BALAD (Courtesy of CJSOTF-AP Public Affairs, June 16, 2008) – The sides of the Iraqi desert highways or crowded city streets are no place for a vehicle to break down. These littered arteries can mask a multitude of dangers from improvised explosive devices planted underneath piles of trash to snipers hiding in the crevices of previous roadside IED sites.

U.S. Army mechanics at Special Operations Task Force - Central work anywhere from 10 to16 hours per day under the desert sun’s scorching heat repairing the U.S. military’s battle-scarred vehicles for Special Forces Soldiers rolling convoys on the streets of southern Iraq.

The mechanics work in sweat-soaked shirts, elbow-deep in grease on these war machines that can’t tell the mechanics what’s wrong like patients can with their doctors.

The Soldiers see how the extreme climate wreaks havoc on the mechanized patients they see every day and know they must take care of them with preventative maintenance and prompt repairs.

“We maintain tactical vehicles that are designed to save lives. We take that very seriously,” said Pfc. Ben Havens, wheeled vehicle mechanic. “The guys who take these vehicles outside the wire depend on them to work properly.”

Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Waltman, battalion maintenance officer, and his team of Army mechanics, multi-national contractors and Iraqi civilians realize how well they do their job can impact the mission.

“We are just little spokes in the wheel that is the U.S. military,” said Waltman. “If one spoke is broken, then the wheel starts to wobble.”

Mechanics accompany their comrades on convoy missions. At any point in time, there are multiple convoys with different mission objectives rolling around 60,000 square miles of southern Iraq. The mechanics on convoys are strategically placed to either fix vehicles on the side of the road or facilitate getting them back to base.

“Time and time again it has proven to save lives … to be able to fix this stuff immediately and not have to wait on someone else,” Waltman said. “A breakdown makes you susceptible to crowds, ambushes or anything.”

Spc. Joe Allickson, wheeled vehicle mechanic, is in his third tour of duty to Iraq. During his numerous convoy trips he’s either had his vehicle shot at or he’s seen other vehicles struck by roadside IEDs.

“We have an assortment of people with different specialties that make up our convoy teams,” he said. “I don’t see my job as being more important than anyone else’s, but if a vehicle can’t roll the convoy doesn’t either.”

“It’s like being a medic for vehicles,” said the specialist who assesses himself to be “pretty good” at changing flat tires on the sides of the trashy, potholed-ridden roads.

“If something goes wrong, I have to be able to diagnose it quickly and figure out if I can fix it immediately or not. I hope I never have to do my job on the road, but I’m ready nonetheless.”

Convoy teams also agree that mechanics working their magic on the tactical vehicles keep them rolling safely and allow them to concentrate on the mission and not worry about the vehicles breaking down.

“I never think about the truck,” said Spc. Douglas Holley, a gunner with the Arkansas National Guard. “You are busy watching everything around you. You get into a flow and never think about the vehicle.”

Waltman said they must keep everything working on a vehicle, right down to the air conditioning, or it doesn’t go on a mission outside the wire. That’s not an easy task considering extreme weather temperatures, rough terrain, and sand are constantly taking their toll on vehicles.

Keeping communication devices functioning properly is also key to ensuring a successful mission. The

warfighter in the operations center needs to have contact with the convoys at all times. If there are communications issues stemming from the vehicle generators not powering the communications systems then the convoys operate in the blind.

“If we let even the generators go down, we are failing the warfighter,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bryon Dinsmore, noncommissioned officer in charge. “We don’t want anyone in a situation that would jeopardize mission success and not bring everyone home safely.”

As ‘vehicle medics’, these mechanics realize the importance of maintaining a healthy fleet of tactical vehicles because every fellow Soldier’s safe return home from a mission depends on it.

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Two U.S. Army privates first class, Combined Joint Special Forces Task Force – Arabian Peninsula wheeled vehicle mechanics, change the oil as part of the routine maintenance on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle before it goes on convoy. The CJSOTF-AP mechanics keep the Special Forces convoy vehicles rolling in the streets and highways of Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
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A U.S. Army private first class, Combined Joint Special Forces Task Force – Arabian Peninsula wheeled vehicle mechanic, fills the battery cells with water during routine maintenance on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle before it goes on convoy. The CJSOTF-AP mechanics keep the Special Forces convoy vehicles rolling in the streets and highways of Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
mechanics004qf2.jpg

A U.S. Army private first class, Combined Joint Special Forces Task Force – Arabian Peninsula wheeled vehicle mechanic, greases the wheel bearing as part of the routine maintenance on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle before it goes on convoy. The CJSOTF-AP team of mechanics works hard to keep the special forces convoy vehicles rolling in the streets and highways of Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
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A U.S. Army private first class, Combined Joint Special Forces Task Force – Arabian Peninsula wheeled vehicle mechanic, changes an air filter as part of the routine maintenance on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle before it goes on convoy. The CJSOTF-AP team of mechanics works hard to keep the special forces convoy vehicles rolling in the streets and highways of Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
 

Gypsy

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Kudos to them. Michael Yon wrote a great dispatch about some of the mechanics for a British unit he was embedded with, it was excellent reporting.
 
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