CAMP LIBERTY – While a Lebanese, Iraqi, and Egyptian mix CD played in the background, four 6th Iraqi Army engineer mechanics lay sprawled on the floor of a maintenance bay, fixing their battered military vehicle. The IAs took part in the second joint vehicle maintenance training conducted by the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 225th Engineer Brigade, Multi-National Division—Baghdad.
The first training session took place in early January 2009, when two IA Soldiers linked up with U.S. Army mechanics to fix their badly damaged vehicle.
“Their vehicle had rocket-propelled grenade blast damage to the windshields, the tires were worn out; we had to rewire the engine, both side mirrors had to be replaced, two doors and combat locks also had to be replaced,” remarked Spc. Travis Richardson, mechanic, Company B, 46th ECB (H), and a native of San Diego, Calif. “The biggest issue was the transmission. We had to do a complete transmission drop because their humvee wouldn’t shift to the right gears.”
After taking on such a giant task of rebuilding their humvee, the two previously trained IA Soldiers were able to jump right in and show their new comrades how to repair their latest vehicle.
The team went to work a few short minutes after arriving at the motor pool, making quick introductions, and receiving their Arabic language maintenance manuals. The first task was to remove a dead battery while Army mechanics stood by to give guidance and pointers.
Spc. Zydoun, mechanic, 6th IA Div., a return trainee mechanic, took the lead in helping out his counterparts with the minor repairs. He holds the lead mechanic position with the 6th IA Div. at Muthana Airfield in Baghdad.
“The Iraqi Soldiers needed our support and Bravo Company led the battalion’s training effort last time. We had a great time. So when they said they had another vehicle needing work we decided to help them out again,” stated Sgt. 1st Class Cornelius Nalls, motor sergeant, Company B, 46th ECB (H), and a native of Fayette, Ala. “We did our initial checks and were prepared for minor services, but after doing a complete and thorough 360, we saw there were major issues that needed to be fixed,”
The humvees are vehicles supplied by Coalition Forces and the IA mechanics aren’t very familiar with repairs to this type of vehicle. Finding the right parts and completing basic preventive maintenance has also been a challenge for the new mechanics.
“Draining those gear hubs took the longest. They used really heavy oil, so we had to drain, remove and clean the parts, and replace with the right lubricant,” said Spc. Melvin Lawson, an all-wheel mechanic, and native of Fredricksburg, Va. “I guess they used what they had.”
“Kevin,” an Iraqi interpreter was on-hand to help with any complex communications, but it only took a few minutes for the group of mechanics to ask each other for the right tools or explain something through simple hand gestures.
“It’s been fun trying to learn what they are saying,” stated Spc. Wanda Porrier, mechanic, Company B, 46th ECB (H), and a native of Pearl, Miss. “I don’t get to interact with many Iraqi people because I’m in the shop all the time. This has been really fun.”
After a week the team cleaned up the remaining oil-soaked rags, washed off their grease-caked hands, posed for photos, shared a few laughs, a final smoke break, and wrapped up another successful training mission. With their vehicle now returned to ‘mission-ready’ status, the IA mechanics leave Camp Liberty with more experience and knowledge that will be passed on to future IA mechanics.
“The IAs are very enthusiastic and have bonded with my mechanics. They all had a great battle rhythm going,” added Sgt. 1st Class Nalls. “They have been a pleasure to work with.”