Mission of ‘Dragon’ Battalion mechanics neverending
The fresh morning sun sheds light on a gloved hand as it turns the ignition on a Humvee. As the vehicle roars to life, it issues a healthy, guttural growl, which grows with the shifting of its gears. With all of its perfunctory checks complete, the newly-repaired Humvee rolls after its ground guide, ready for whatever the day might bring. It has not always been so.
When Company C, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States – Center received vehicles from the outgoing unit, it was not the first time the vehicles had exchanged hands, and the years of wear and tear were apparent. Only one out of every five vehicles could be considered mission-worthy.
“Nearly every vehicle [was non-mission capable],” said Sgt. Mike Grundler, a mechanic with 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, and a Pittsburgh native.
Long hours were necessary just to bring the vehicles up to a minimum standard, said Staff Sgt. Justin Heald, a team chief with 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and a Chester, N.Y., native.
“[We] worked 14 to 15 hours a day in the motor pool for the first month,” Heald said.
The tasks put before the mechanics of Company C, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment,. were not purely mechanical. They also were required to replace three engine wiring harnesses, and one body wiring harness. These harnesses are akin to a vehicle’s nervous system; they tell the electronic components what to do and provide them with the power to do it.
Since the preexisting harnesses were collections of sub-standard wires taken from other devices, replacing them was critical so there wouldn’t be a failure of the electronic systems at a crucial moment for its occupants, Heald said.
One silver lining of all this frenzied work was that the junior mechanics gained knowledge and experience at a rapid pace. Having had to quickly adapt from servicing tanks to working on light-wheeled vehicles, the younger mechanics learned about the wheeled vehicles on the fly. One of their more extensive lessons came in the form of a broken engine, Grundler said.
Over the course of four days, they successfully removed, cleaned, repaired, and installed a Humvee engine while their leaders observed.
No matter how motivated and skilled a mechanic may be, however, there are still repair issues that cannot be addressed because of a lack of replacement parts.
“I order a lot of parts that [take time to] come through,” said Spc. Jorge Villalobos, a mechanic with Company C, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and a Junction City, Kan., native. “However, the team does the best it can with what it has.”
In a cold bay, behind a nearly closed shutter door, the Humvee with the healthy growling engine and several others are undergoing scheduled maintenance. Mechanics in their oil-stained coveralls clamber around and underneath them. Removing tires, checking fluid levels, draining and replacing oil, and running diagnostics, they go about their jobs with purpose and efficiency.
It’s a never-ending mission for the mechanics of Company C, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. Normal wear and tear ensures that there will always be Humvees, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, generators, and light medium tactical vehicles to repair and make mission-ready.
Article by 2nd Lt. Douglas Bengal, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs