FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- Grunts have been piling onto and out of trucks for a century. The ground mobility that trucks provide gets troops to their destinations quickly and allows them to retrograde just as fast.
However, like any mechanical device, they require constant attention to maintain performance. To keep its convoys rolling, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) relies on its mechanics, particularly while on the road.
Preventive maintenance is the key to preventing breakdowns. Drivers perform inspections on their vehicles prior to heading out and mechanics investigate anything that may look questionable.
However, given the rocky, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, contact trucks are an invaluable asset to any convoy, and usually are a must.
Contact trucks take with them any tool that can be used to make a repair on the road. If the repair can't be made in a timely matter, they also carry tow bars that allow a working vehicle to tow the malfunctioning one.
Repairing vehicles quickly can be a matter of survival. Convoys that aren't moving are large targets.
"We've got to do a quick fix, whatever keeps them rolling," said Cpl. Jeremy Leopold, of Argyle, Wisconsin, a motor transport mechanic with MEU Service Support Group 22. "You never know when you're going to be ambushed. You try to keep it to a 15 minute time limit."
Repairs on the road can range from simple flat tires to complete engine failure. Overheating is one of the more common problems. The steep inclines that the vehicles are called upon to traverse put a harder strain on the engines. If there is a coolant leak or if a thermometer breaks, higher temperatures could cause a rod to break or the engine block to crack.
Regardless of what may happen on the road, the Marines aren't alone in Afghanistan. Use of the contact trucks is also a joint venture. Mechanics from the Army's 528th Engineers have been supporting the MEU's operations. The relationship has been one of cooperation.
"They're good-to-go guys," said Army Sgt. Scott Dennis, an Oak Grove, La., native and heavy equipment mechanic with the 528th Engineers. "If I need help with anything, they're there. We've been helping each other."
There's enough work to go around on the convoys for both services.
"Every time you go out, you're going to have something [break]," said Dennis.
The spirit of cooperation also exists within the MSSG-22 Motor Transport section. One Marine extended his enlistment just to remain with his comrades, even though he knew the destination was Afghanistan.
"I wanted to come over here with them," said Justin Loper, a Gulf Port, Miss., native and motor transport mechanic with MSSG-22. "This Motor T section is pretty tight. We stick with each other."
The team focused attitude of the Motor Transport mechanics is part of how they are able to keep the motors running and the wheel turning. As long as the mechanics are performing their job, so will the vehicles of the 22nd MEU (SOC).
In addition to MSSG-22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced). The MEU is designated Task Force Linebacker.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.