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LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington (right), from Ames, Iowa, uses a pry bar to remove a tow bar from the hitch of a mine-resistant ambush-protected - all terrain vehicle Jan. 8 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, while U.S. Army Pvt. Torin Xaiden, from Independence, Iowa, looks on. The two all-wheeled vehicle mechanics, both with Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, hauled another M-ATV which was leaking oil, into the garage and fixed the problem before the operator returned with his paperwork. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington hopped on a massive tire and vaulted up to the engine block of the truck parked in one of the bays in the garage on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam in eastern Afghanistan. With his greasy, nicked-up hands, hands that tell a story of a young man hard at work, he held a bottle of degreaser spray.



“Now where is that leak coming from?” he asked himself and the mechanic looking over his shoulder, U.S. Army Pvt. Torin Xaiden.

The two Iowa National Guard all-wheeled mechanics from Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, sprayed around hoses and different areas of the engine, searching for the leak. Soon they were joined by Ryan Harris, a civilian who works with the mechanics as a service representative from the OshKosh Corporation, the company that makes the mine-resistant ambush-protected – all terrain vehicles the mechanics were working on.

Together, the Army mechanics and the civilian lifted a bolt from the top of the engine head and found a small, broken seal.

“Ohh!” Farrington, from Ames, Iowa, said, as he noticed the gap and bend in the ring, which usually forms a perfect circle. They had discovered the problem. Two minutes later, they had replaced the ring and the bolt and fixed the oil leak.

This time the mechanics got lucky. They found a simple problem, a broken ring which costs less than a dollar, but one, which if neglected, could have caused enough oil to leak out of the vehicle to burn up the engine and deadline a vehicle worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They fixed the problem then tested it by revving the engine and monitoring the area to ensure the leak stopped completely, before the vehicle operator returned from the office with the repair paperwork.

Three months ago, the Army mechanics had never worked or driven the huge hunk of steel in front of them. The M-ATV is an MRAP, the new style of vehicle which has replaced the humvee due to the rough terrain in Afghanistan and its increased ability to resist damage caused by enemy improvised explosive devices. Now, they work on the vehicles daily, keeping platoons of the 34th Infantry and 101st Airborne Division Soldiers on the road to execute missions and cart supplies across eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Spc. Jeremy Hofland, another all-wheeled mechanic from Iowa with Co. E, 1st Bn., 133rd Infantry Regt., from Winthrop, Iowa, said the mechanics had to learn to maintain and repair four different kinds of MRAP vehicles while deployed – the M-ATV, the MAXXPRO series, the Cougar and the RG-31 models.

This is the first deployment for all three of the young mechanics, who said when they attended their advanced individual training -- the training Soldiers receive to learn their specific job in the Army after completing basic training -- they learned to work on humvees. They went from working on humvees which weigh 10,000 to 14,000 pounds to MRAPs weighing as much as 25 tons.

“Humvees are actually kind of simple,” Hofland said. “You don’t have to drop any belly pans to do any services on the vehicles.”

The belly pans Hofland referred to are large steel plates on the bottoms of the MRAP vehicles which form a V-shape and are designed to keep the blasts from roadside explosives away from the vehicles and their crew. Hofland said to service different problems on a MRAP, often these plates must be removed.

Hofland said once the plates are removed, the larger vehicles often offer a mechanic more space between parts to make repairs.

The mechanics said after three months in country, they haven’t had to perform any major repairs on the vehicles yet. Some of the common tasks the mechanics said they’ve performed on the vehicles are tire changes, changing fluids and routine maintenance checks as well as replacing chipped window panes. The windows are several panes thick and weigh several hundred pounds each.

“We actually use a forklift to lift the windows into place,” Hofland explained. He said changing a tire is also at least a two-man job, as the tires are about three-feet high and weigh 480 pounds.

“It’s not like the tires on your car,” Hovland said. “You definitely wouldn’t want one to fall on you.”

The mechanics said they learned maintain and repair the MRAPs after arriving in Afghanistan, largely with the help of service representatives from the vehicle’s manufacturers. The engines on the MRAPs are made by heavy equipment companies such as Caterpillar, International and Cummins, the mechanics said.

“Having the service reps here has been a huge plus for us,” Farrington, from Ames, Iowa, said.

The mechanics said they still repair humvees, many of which are being phased out and transferred to the Afghan National Army and Afghan Uniformed Police.

The biggest and heaviest of the four MRAP types the mechanics work on is the MAXXPro, but Hofland said his favorite of the four styles is the M-ATV.

“I think it’s the best one,” he said. “It’s the lightest one, it’s able to go up and down hills better than the other vehicles, and I like its horsepower-to-weight ratio.”

The three mechanics said they’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning and working on the new vehicle systems on the fly.

Farrington and Hofland are second-generation mechanics who said they grew up fixing things with their fathers and always wanted to be mechanics. Hofland said he started on lawn mowers and just kept going. Xaiden said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do until he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and scored high in the mechanical section.

“I knew I didn’t want to fly, I wanted to be on the ground, so I went with wheeled mechanic,” Xaiden, a native of Independence, Iowa, said.

Farrington, in particular, is a ball of energy, always on the go and fixing things, which does not go unnoticed by his fellow mechanics.

“I, and a lot of the other guys out there, think he’s the best mechanic we’ve got,” Hofland said.

All the mechanics’ quick-learning skills on the new vehicles has kept the fleet operating at a high-level of readiness.

“I’ve worked with four different units in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here in Afghanistan,” said Harris, who mentored the young mechanics on maintaining the vehicles. “These guys are great; they’ve made my job here easy.”

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington, an all-wheeled vehicle mechanic from Ames, Iowa, with Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, looks to see where an oil leak is originating from on a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle Jan. 8 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam. The mechanics fixed the leak before the operator returned with his paperwork. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The dirty, weathered hand of U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington, an all-wheeled vehicle mechanic from Ames, Iowa, with Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, holds the broken seal causing a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle to leak oil Jan. 8 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam. Though the part is very inexpensive, if left unattended, the leak could have ruined the engine and permanently grounded a piece of equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington (right), from Ames, Iowa, uses a pry bar to remove a tow bar from the hitch of a mine-resistant ambush-protected - all terrain vehicle Jan. 8 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, while U.S. Army Pvt. Torin Xaiden, from Independence, Iowa, looks on. The two all-wheeled vehicle mechanics, both with Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, hauled another M-ATV, which was leaking oil, into the garage and fixed the problem before the operator returned with his paperwork. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Derek Farrington (left), from Ames, Iowa, sprays degreaser on the engine of a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle to determine where it is leaking oil Jan. 8 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, while U.S. Army Pvt. Torin Xanier, from Independence, Iowa, looks on. The two all-wheeled vehicle mechanics, both with Company E, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, fixed the leak before the operator returned with his paperwork. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 January 2011 05:14
 

    

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