KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – When most people think of Soldiers they think men with guns rushing headlong into danger, while rarely giving thought to those behind the scenes who keep the weapons firing and the vehicles rolling.
One group of Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Salerno work hard behind the scenes each day to ensure that their counterparts on the front lines not only have the equipment they need, but that it is ready to keep them in the fight.
The Soldiers are from Task Force Red Knight’s maintenance platoon, Company G, 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
With a crew of just 17 Soldiers, the workload is non-stop, and it keeps them hopping.
“Our maintenance crew is the best in the brigade,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Fair, platoon sergeant, 1st platoon, Co. G. “Our platoon is doing the job of a 70-man company. All of our guys are hard-workers and are dedicated to their job. Everyone here turns a wrench and gets dirty.”
In order to accomplish their mission the platoon is broken down into five sections.
The first is the generator shop. These Soldiers help ensure that all military generators on FOB Salerno, as well as six combat outposts are properly maintained and running.
“If a generator goes down, we are going to go out and fix it,” said Fair, a native of Houston. “We are on call 24-hours-a-day, 7-days a week.”
In the last 30 days the generator shop has repaired more than 15 generators on Salerno, as well as the outlying COPs.
The second section consists of the scheduled maintenance shop.
The Soldiers there ensure that all required maintenance is done on the vehicles and equipment that come in.
“They look over the entire vehicle from one end to the other,” said Fair. “They look for loose wires, check the suspension, ensure the safety features are all functional and they make sure the air-conditioning systems are working properly.”
The shop’s Soldiers also do vehicle recovery missions. Since arriving in February, they have conducted more than 150 recovery missions with a 100 percent success rate.
The third section is unscheduled maintenance.
Their mission is to provide emergency vehicle repairs when needed.
“No matter what time of day or night it is, if a vehicle goes down we are going to repair it and get it back up and running,” said Fair. “We can fix any vehicle, from Gators to fork-lifts, all the way up to the MAXXPROs.”
For the month of July, the shops have successfully completed more than 80 jobs.
Another section the platoon has is the armament shop.
There, the team repairs all the various weapons systems used by Soldiers on the battlefield, such as the M-16A2 and M-4 rifles, 50-Caliber Machine Guns and sniper rifles.
Last, but not least, the platoon has a communication and equipment shop. Their mission is to work on various types of communication equipment such as radios and global positioning systems. They also repair night-vision equipment.
“The work keeps me pretty busy,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Zachary C. Stevens, a native of Towson, Md., and power generation equipment repairer, Co. G, 626th BSB, 3rd Bde., 101st Airborne Div. “Every day brings a new challenge. It’s rewarding though, because you are keeping the equipment going and it’s the lifeline of Soldiers on the FOBs and in the field.”
Ultimately the Soldiers of the maintenance platoon try to ensure the warriors on the front lines don’t have to worry about their equipment so they can concentrate on the fight.
“We try to make sure that when Soldiers go out to the fight they can get from point A to Z,” said Fair. “Not just point A to B, but A to Z; from the beginning of their mission to the end.”
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