By Army Sgt. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 15, 2008 - Thanks to the intuitive efforts of a team of Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers, combat vehicles undergo a few structural changes while deployed to this forward operating base in Baghdad's Rashid district. Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division's Company B, 4th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, often face the demands of fixing many types of combat vehicles without an excess of available parts or the manufacturer's training manual.
"In our fabrication shop, it is always quicker to manufacture an item, which can get done in a day or so compared to ordering items from the States, which may take from one week to six months to get here," said Army Chief Warrant Officer Mark Davis, brigade allied trades technician assigned to Company B.
It is important to have a quick turnaround when vehicles break down, because they are used every day by soldiers securing the brigade's operating environment, said Davis, who is from Wilburton, Okla.
"The soldiers need to be able to utilize as many vehicles as necessary to minimize attacks against us and our allies," Davis explained. "If our presence is perceived as being lax, there may be a spike in activity which could show us as being weak. We don't want that."
The company's support and recovery section fabricates replacement parts for armored vehicles, such as the mine-resistant, ambush-protected family of vehicles and Humvees, Davis said.
The rear steps on one model of MRAP vehicle, for example, present a reoccurring problem, said Army Spc. Thomas Beaty, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic. The ramps often break because the length of the vehicle causes the rear end to hit the ground while crossing a deep rut, he said.
A collaborative effort between a small team of soldiers and a field service representative -- typically an engineer or mechanic sent by the manufacturer of each vehicle -- determines the method of repair when faced with either a broken part or manufacturing defect, Davis said.
Other improvements and repairs include door handles on Humvees and the sway bar on the MRAP vehicles, an anti-roll device that stabilizes the vehicle during cornering.
"The [noncommissioned officers] and soldiers work with each other to solve any problems," said Beaty, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif. "There is a lot of mechanical knowledge between all the soldiers."
The field service representatives also are very knowledgeable and a big help when addressing technical aspects of the vehicles, said Beaty, who worked on farm and marine equipment before he joined the Army.
"My job is great," Beaty stated. "I fix the vehicles, which keep the soldiers on mission safer."
(Army Sgt. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team.)