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AL QAIM, Iraq ? Lance Cpl. Galen Shelton, a generator mechanic assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Detachment Al Qaim removes an oil filter from a diesel generator while conducting preventive maintenance June 13. Shelton, from Germantown, Md., spends most of his days covered in oil and dirt as he repairs and maintains generators throughout the base.

Photo by SGT. JUAN VARA

Utilities Marines keep their cool in Al Qaim’s scorching weather

14 Jun 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

The Marines in the utilities section of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Detachment Al Qaim, have some stories to tell.

Lance Cpl. Eric T. Wright, an air conditioner mechanic from Tampa Bay, Fla., recalls the time he spent several hours trying to fix an air conditioner in one of the wooden buildings here and couldn’t make it work.  After trying almost everything, he flipped the circuit breaker.  The air conditioner worked.

Cpl. Kelly Rohrer, an electrician, remembers the time they received a call that there was a problem with the lights in one of the buildings.  “All I had to do was flip the switch,” said Rohrer, a native of Austin.  “They weren’t giving enough time for the bulbs to warm up, so they kept turning them on and off real quick.”

After taking care of their most important assignments in the mornings, when it’s still somewhat cool outside, the utilities Marines spend the rest of their days responding to trouble calls.  Their primary roles are to fix or maintain all generators and air conditioners here and wire or rewire buildings as needed.

They’re keeping busy, the higher temperatures require the air conditioners to work harder, and according to Wright, they’ve been breaking down more often.  “Every three to four days an air conditioner goes down,” he said.

With the weather outside not being particularly magic, the air conditioners not only keep personnel cool, but also to maintain computers, radios, radars and other high-tech equipment in working order.

“The entire operations are pretty much run off of computers now,” said Rohrer.  “All of that needs power.  A lot of the gear needs air conditioners to stay cool and generators power those air conditioners.”

All in all things have slowed down in comparison to when they first arrived here a few months ago.  “We worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Lance Cpl. Galen Shelton, a generator mechanic.

Shelton, from Germantown, Md., was presented with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal two months after getting here for his professional achievements in fixing and maintaining generators and going above and beyond the call of duty.

Sgt. Eric S. Santos, utilities chief, said that since they’re on call 24 hours a day sometimes they work an entire day shift and sleep for a few hours; it isn’t unusual to be woken up to work for most of the night and continue working the next day.

“Since we got here we’ve rewired 18 huts and installed 40 to 50 air conditioners,” said Santos.  “Our biggest job now is maintaining things.”

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Santos said he’s glad to have these Marines under his charge.  They do their best to support not only the units under the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing that are based here, but also their neighbors from the 2nd Marine Division.

These Marines enjoy the work, and know that the service they provide is needed to accomplish the mission.  They put in long hours and do not mind wake-up calls during the night.  Just check your circuit breakers and let your lights warm up before you give them a call.

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