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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Mechanics Keep Vehicles Rolling

CAMP ADDER, Iraq - While other troops are resting, the Soldiers of Company B, 134th Brigade Support Battalion burn the midnight oil to ensure hard-driven vehicles stay safe on the road
Since arriving in Iraq in April, the approximately 100 troops in the Minnesota National Guard unit have worked long hours and sometimes battled the elements to accomplish their maintenance mission

Chief Warrant Officer Steven Serie, the battalion maintenance officer for the 134th BSB, said the troops have a good reason to work as hard as they do others are depending on them

If we don't do the best job that we can do and something happens to those vehicles when they're out on the road, we could lose one of our friends, one of our relatives, someone that we know, said Serie, who often turns wrenches alongside the rank and file of Co B

Even though they are just two months into their tour in Iraq, the troops have already overcome many obstacles Bravo Company is the first unit in Minnesota and one of the first in the entire National Guard to be reorganized as a field maintenance unit

Under this new system, companies no longer maintain their own maintenance personnel and instead defer to a battalion-level element that performs everything from organizational to direct support maintenance

Being the first field maintenance unit in their state meant the troops in Co B had to undergo an especially long six-month training period at Camp Shelby, Miss, before reaching Iraq As if the daunting length of the deployment weren't enough of a challenge, Co B arrived to find there was already a long line of vehicles and they were behind schedule Many of these vehicles had been in use since the invasion in 2003 and were in such bad condition they would break almost as soon as they were repaired

They are just taking a pounding, Serie said about the vehicles

> The Soldiers are also taking a pounding The unit has their shop running 24 hours, seven days a week

After experimenting with several different work schedules, the unit settled on a routine in which most of the crew work a shift from 11 pm to 11 am to avoid stifling midday temperatures

Spc Matthew Kroulik, 21, a Co B mechanic, recalled when a sandstorm rolled through in the middle of the night He put on a filter mask like the ones used by doctors to help him breathe and continued working

Despite the late hours, Kroulik said he likes the nocturnal schedule

They make for long days, but sometimes you feel a little more accomplished, you get a little more done, said Kroulik who was a school bus driver and student at Wynona State University in Minnesota

While the mechanics put their noses to the grindstone, other sections work repairing air conditioner systems, SINCGAR radios, ballistic glass, weapons, and whatever other odd jobs are needed to keep the vehicles ready for Iraq's perilous roads All of the sections work 12 hour days and seldom get days off

Leaders say the teamwork has paid off Between April 25 and May 13, Co B mechanics corrected about 950 faults in more than 100 vehicles Leaders are optimistic that if they continue at the same schedule, they should be caught up by the end of June

I think they have performed exceptionally, said Capt Heidi Gauderman, the company commander They are motivated, excited to do their MOS (military occupational specialty)- they are really dedicated to getting these trucks out on the road

Written by Spc Spencer Case

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