Maintaining the spear, Part I: Keeping the MEU rolling

12 Sep 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

Editor's Note: Maintaining the spear is a two-part series focusing on the various preventive maintenance conducted by members of the 26th MEU(SOC) in order to keep their vehicles, equipment and aircraft up and running.Without vehicles, it is unlikely the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) would be able to get equipment ashore and supplies to deployed troops, which would eventually mean failure in combat.Without Marines like LCpl. Nikolaus Amorosino, the MEU would not have vehicles.Ensuring those vehicles are ready for any mission the MEU might perform during their current deployment is why Amorosino, a motor transport dispatcher with MEU Service Support Group 26, joined other Marines in evaluating and repairing vehicles as part of a maintenance stand down here.The primary purpose of the stand down was to perform preventive maintenance (PM) on the MEU's many vehicles and larger pieces of equipment, according to GySgt. William Flanary, Maintenance Chief with MSSG-26."What we're doing here is called first echelon PM," said the Haskell, Texas native. "That's when we get out there and do things like wash them down, check the tires, oil and identify any parts or repairs that might be needed."The stand-downs usually last more than a week. This one lasted two. However, before any vehicles can be offloaded, a ship must first designate a port in which to hold the stand down. Once the port has been identified, Marines who are assigned to care for vehicles must begin the time-consuming process of offloading them and establishing a maintenance site.Since scheduling changes caused USS Saipan to hold her stand down in a different port than intended, Flanary said the Marines at the Trieste maintenance site faced a unique challenge. The USS Austin, a member of the Saipan Amphibious Ready Group, was at port in Souda Bay, Crete, where USS Saipan was originally scheduled to hold their maintenance period. On the USS Austin was the MEU's Block Nine."A Block Nine is a supply block with most of our repair parts," said Flanary. "Most of the vehicles are on the Saipan, but the parts are on the Austin. This means we had to order all our parts from the states."Flanary said it took about one week from when he ordered the parts until he received them.The Marines used the time before needed parts arrived to conduct the other routine maintenance task."You check everything. You have to," said Amorosino, a Los Angeles, Calif. native. "You check the lights. You check the brakes. You check the fluids."Amorosino said that what might be routine is just as important as any major repair."Minor things done here will help in the long run. Minor things not done here could be terrible," he said. "If this truck is not perfect, that small thing can end up taking my life."According to Cpl. Rolando Garcia, vehicle commander with Battalion Landing Team 2/2's Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment, it is that personal stake that puts the vehicles in such great condition."It's about combat readiness, and we've got it," said the Tucson, Ariz. native. "If just one vehicle goes down that hurts the mission."Garcia pointed out that this was one of many times the vehicles had been looked over since the work-up process began."We took awesome care of these things," he said. "Now that we're on ship it's all about maintaining them."Though some major work, such as replacing a transmission and rebuilding an engine, were needed, Flanary said the vehicle were in good condition and ready for combat.According to SSgt. John Clark, technical controller with the 26th MEU(SOC)'s Joint Task Force Enabler satellite communications system, the same green light goes for the MEU's communication equipment."We went out there to get the gear away from the salt water," said the Phoenix, Ariz. native. "Salt water could cause a connection to rust, and you're gear won't work if your connections are rusted."Overall, Flanary said that preventive maintenance was done on more than a hundred vehicles and pieces of equipment. Though this is only the beginning. After each exercise or operation the MEU conducts, Flanary said the vehicles will be cleaned and checked over before returning aboard ship.Among those vehicles will be Amorosino and Garcia, inspecting vehicles as if their lives depended on it.