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Mechanics maintain standard of safety for traveling Soldiers

Apr 10, 2010

By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public Affairs

CONTIGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- A breakdown off base in a war zone stops an entire convoy, creating an opportunity for the enemy to attack.

Mechanics with the 2101st Transportation Company out of Demopolis, Ala., 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) ride along with convoys to provide assistance if a vehicle breaks down or needs to be towed to another base.

Spc. Andrew R. Hilliman, a mechanic with the 2101st Trans. Co., said he works on vehicles at the motor pool and drives the wrecker as part of the unit's recovery team.

Hilliman, a Prattville, Ala., native, said his job allows him to work with units when they do preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicles. If the Soldiers find problems with the trucks that require a mechanic, Hillman and his unit can assist them.

"We'll go out with the operators and ... help them do their PMCS," he said. "We fix any on the spot corrections that we can make. If need be, we come back and order parts, look through the (technical manuals) and go from there. As soon as we get (the parts), we go back out to the trucks and fix them."

Hilliman said PMCS should be performed before every mission. When he is part of the recovery team, he does PMCS on his wrecker each time to make sure it does not break down on a mission, he said.

Sgt. Henry H. Tavra, another mechanic with the 2101st Trans. Co., said when Soldiers do PMCS, they should check the oil, air, water and belts, and replace any parts that need to be fixed.

"Maintenance means a lot," said Tavra, a Birmingham, Ala., native. "A (broken) 10 cent part can ground that vehicle on the side of the road."

If the mechanics cannot fix a vehicle within a certain amount of time, they use the wrecker to tow it to its final destination, Hilliman said.

"If you're smart and you know your vehicle, then it's not much of a transition; it's pretty much doing your job, just in a convoy or at a motor pool," he said. "Maintenance is maintenance, so as long as you know your job. Operating (the wrecker) is a piece of cake."

They can also use the wrecker to help pull motors out of other vehicles at the motor pool, said Hilliman.

"I think it is the best (military vehicle) we have," he said. "It's got many uses and it never seems to break down if you keep up with its preventive maintenance checks and services."

This is Hilliman's third deployment to Iraq.

"I've got quite a bit of experience as far as being down the road and at the motor pool," he said. "I love the job. I love it more when we're outside the wire, just makes it a lot more exciting. Every day is not the same and you never know what you might (encounter)."

Spc. Amy J. Combs, also a mechanic with the 2101st, said she takes vehicles that are inoperable and does what she can to fix them.

Combs, a Choctaw, Ala., native, said the mechanics don't just fix the vehicles until they are comfortable with them, but so the drivers feel safe and confident about operating the vehicle.

"They used to throw posters up all the time ... that said, 'We work on it as though our lives depend on it - theirs do.' I don't think I quite understood that until I got here," she said.

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