War on Terrorism

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

National Guard Mechanics Provide Critical Support to Iraq Mission

By Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - For the members of Company E, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, a National Guard unit out of Patchogue, N.Y., the job begins well before helicopters begin their flight here. Company E is made up of heavy and light equipment mechanics, refuelers, generator mechanics and suppliers. The mechanics faced quite a challenge upon arriving in Iraq. They were tasked to completely rebuild and repair all of the vehicles in the motor pool.

"It was a big job," Army Spc. Luis A. Lopez, a heavy construction equipment mechanic, said. "But we all pulled together and got the motor pool up and in working order."

The mechanics service all types of vehicles, from construction equipment to light equipment vehicles, such as Humvees.

"In a typical month, we service anywhere from 15 to 20 vehicles," Army Spc. Bill A. Flaherty, a heavy equipment mechanic, said. "We also conduct scheduled maintenance such as technical inspections, which are annual inspections that involve tearing down the entire vehicle, removing tires, draining old fluids and inspecting the brakes."

The mechanics also perform preventive maintenance checks and services on the vehicles to ensure they continue to work properly and maintain the mission.

The ground mechanics work on the trucks that refuel aircraft. The refuelers perform hot fueling -- fueling the aircraft while it is running -- and cold fueling, which is done when the aircraft is completely shut down.

"We are a crucial part of the refueling mission," Army Sgt. Darryl K. Joseph, a light equipment mechanic, said. "The vehicles that fuel the aircraft may need repair in the middle of the night, and if they are not fixed right away, the mission is impacted. It's our job to make sure that does not happen."

The mechanics also use their skills to assist them in their civilian careers.

Flaherty, who owns a trucking company on Long Island, N.Y., said he uses the skills he learned in his Army advanced individual training on a daily basis.

"AIT taught me about heavy trucks and equipment and how to fix them," Flaherty said. "My company uses trucks to deliver sand and equipment, and now when those trucks fail, I am able to cut down on time and costs, because the Army taught me how to be a proficient mechanic."

Lopez has had similar experiences in his civilian career as an employee at a local construction company.

"I learned how to drive heavy equipment vehicles in AIT," Lopez, also from Long Island, said. "So when I started at my job, I was already prepared to not only drive the vehicles, but fix them as well."

(Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall serves in the Multinational Division Center public affairs office.)

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