Army Mechanics: Go the Distance

Article excerpt

A young Soldier rubbed sleep from his eyes as he stumbled into a giant machinery garage at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan. He'd been working on various trucks and machines for 16 hours straight, but he still had to work on one more.

Late nights are nothing new to deployed mechanics like Pfc. Carson Beaver, from Headquarters Support Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, Fort Lewis, Wash The unit's main mission is providing "last-stop" maintenance support for the battalion's continuing fight against the insurgency in Paktika Province.

That night, Beaver and his team had to fix yet another damaged Humvee returning from a late-night patrol. After running some tests, they determined that the vehicle's dirt-encrusted front differential needed to be replaced.

"This vehicle is a four-wheel drive, and right now, it's not driving with all four wheels," Beaver said. The repair would take at least four hours, but the vehicle would be ready to roll the next morning.

"We find ourselves fixing everything from small utility vehicles to 5-ton heavy-transport vehicles," Beaver said, lying on his back while unscrewing bolts, with several tons of metal inches above his head. "Keeping a unit's vehicles running is a very important job. When Soldiers come to us needing something fixed, they know we're reliable and they'll be able to continue on their missions."

"Missions would cease without proper maintenance because everyone relies so heavily on vehicles out here," said 1st Lt. Alex Faber, a motor officer. "We're a last-stop repair shop for units traveling into southern Paktika. Whether we're just providing units with parts or staying up all night to repair a broken vehicle, well support anyone who comes through here."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Because of the incredibly rough terrain and lack of paved roads the vehicles encounter each day, they take an unimaginable beating. Sometimes the team faces problems they don't have any idea how to fix at first, Faber said. …