War on Terrorism

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

As Iraq Tour Nears End, Truckers' Mission Continues

By Army Sgt. Andy Mehler
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 3, 2009 - When a deployed unit approaches its end-of-tour date, the focus begins to shift from the deployment at hand to redeployment stateside. But not so for those who support the mission until its final moment, such as the mechanics with the 628th Aviation Support Battalion, who face the pressures of repairing vehicles quickly while also taking steps to shut down operations.

The motor pool's mechanics collectively operate nearly 24 hours each day, said Army Sgt. Nic Light, a mechanic with Headquarters Support Company, 628th Aviation Support Battalion, with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The mechanics are grouped into work teams, with some working on vehicle repairs and maintenance, while others clean and pack tools. The mechanics pull all tools and equipment from their storage trailers, inventory them, clean them individually, pressure-wash the trailer and then replace all the tools inside, Light said.

The storage trailer is then locked until it can be inspected by customs officials for shipment back home, adding that ensuring the tools are free of dirt and dust is not an easy task in a desert environment.

They faced another big hurdle as well. No support was in place for nontactical vehicles, the civilian-model trucks and sport-utility vehicles used around the camp, Light said.

"We had to build up a parts stock and create an inventory for them," he said. The mechanics had to research all of the parts and corresponding stock numbers for the civilian vehicles and enter them into their military parts data base for future ordering needs.

Updating the parts inventory to include civilian vehicles will greatly assist the incoming unit, as Light's unit soon will be unable to order parts because their online system will be shut down.

To avoid having vehicles sit immobile, the maintenance crew is working to quickly get disabled vehicles back on the road and mission-ready, while at the same time preparing to shut down and head back home.

The motor pool also is the operations area for the truck platoon of Company A, 628th ASB, which transports cargo around the base. As their deployment winds down, the truck platoon remains busy assisting in the expansion of the camp. The platoon has been hauling large storage containers and housing trailers, as well as concrete security walls and road barriers that are placed around the living areas for added safety.

"The only thing that could potentially be an issue for us is if the mechanics have already discontinued their operations prior to our missions being completed," Staff Sgt. Douglas Kimmel, platoon sergeant from Manheim, Pa., said.

(Army Sgt. Andy Mehler serves in the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade public affairs office.)

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