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AL TAQADDUM, Iraq ? Lance Cpl. Rusty Young, a mechanic with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and Redding, Calif., native, repairs a universal joint on a rear drive shaft on a self-loading trailer here. The maintenance platoon is made up of welders and mechanics who work together to repair vehicles for here.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Sand Shark mechanics keep Al Taqaddum’s engines running

25 Jul 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

From providing rescue and firefighting to fuel delivery services, the Sand Sharks of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 have multiple tasks while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of the most important ones is vehicle maintenance.

Without the efforts of the motor transportation maintenance platoon many vehicles would sit unusable for months, unable to support the various missions here.

“Every mission out here requires vehicles,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Deblasis, a mechanic and Cleveland native. “We contribute to every operation by fixing vehicles for anyone on base, keeping everyone combat ready.”

The mechanics and welders in the platoon work with a common purpose, to repair Sand Shark vehicles and help any other unit that needs assistance.

“All of our Marines are working together to accomplish our job,” said Sgt. Ramon Zuniga, a maintenance platoon section chief and Dallas native. “We have guys working on equipment they have never repaired before.”  But they get them all back on the road and are gaining even greater knowledge in the process.

The teamwork is really evident when the younger Marines are able to share their knowledge of the newest techniques and procedures.

“We have had a few instances where we had something break, that one of our junior Marines who joined the unit a month before deploying would show us more senior guys how to fix it without any problems,” Zuniga said. “They are a great asset and have the most current knowledge in our job field, which changes almost annually.”

One challenge the Sand Shark mechanics face is fixing vehicles for last minute tasks or that are essential to the success of the airfield.

“When one of the fire trucks breaks down we have to immediately stop what we are working on and get that truck up and running,” said Lance Cpl. Rusty Young, a motor transportation mechanic and Redding, Calif., native. “They have to keep a certain number of trucks operational or the airfield has to close.”

“There have been a few instances when a vehicle comes in and they need it for a convoy the next day, so we have to work through the night to get that vehicle ready for action,” said Zuniga. “It’s part of the job, we do it because these vehicles are needed to accomplish the mission.”

When the Sand Sharks arrived in February, they inherited quite a few vehicles that needed repair. Since their very first day, the Sand Shark’s maintenance platoon has been operating at full speed, working to keep the vehicles in the fight.

“Since day one our guys have been doing a good job. That day we fixed five vehicles and they have just been constantly turning out vehicles at a steady pace. ” Zuniga said. “We get vehicles out of here in three days or less and have been down to one truck in our lot a couple of times.”

“It is nice to see our hard work makes a difference,” Young said. “With the trucks out of our shop that means the operators can accomplish their mission. From any flightline operation to convoy security, we play a hand in all aspects of the fight.”

While the MWSS-371 maintenance platoon continues to repair vehicles and assist other units, the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and other units here continue to roll strong in the fight for a bright and free Iraq.

*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at*

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