CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit have put their vehicles and equipment through four months of wear and tear in Africa and the Middle East, since they deployed, Jan. 6,.
As the party responsible for keeping the MEU's gear up and running, Combat Logistics Battalion-26's Maintenance Detachment has been hard at work since the unit came ashore here, April 20.
The Maintenance Det. handles nearly anything and everything when it comes to fixing MEU gear, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Todd L. McAllister, CLB-26 Maintenance officer.
"If it shoots, moves or communicates on the ground, we have Marines to fix it," stated the Roseburg, Ore., native.
As a Marine Air Ground Task Force, the MEU brings to the fight nearly every type of vehicle and equipment piece in the Marine Corps' inventory, meaning the Maintenance Det. must keep a diverse, well-trained cast of wrench turners to stay on top of repairs.
To handle the multitude of maintenance issues, the detachment has vehicle, communications, artillery, utilities and even optics and night vision technicians among its staff of 42 leathernecks.
Having a wide range of experience and skill sets within the detachment helps to improve the capabilities of each maintainer, said Lance Cpl. Dustin W. Absher, a welder with Maintenance Det.
"Working with all the different vehicles helps me learn a lot about my job," he explained. "We work really well together, and we are always willing to lend a hand to one another to learn and get the job done."
The complexity and size of repair jobs handled by the detachment vary greatly, said McAllister.
For example, an M-1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank mechanic from the detachment may be soldering and swapping a tiny circuit on the vehicle's fire control system one minute, and then working to overhaul the massive, 10,000-pound engine the next, he explained.
To best handle the MEU's maintenance issues, the detachment works closely with personnel from the Command, Aviation Combat and Ground Combat Elements.
When a vehicle or piece of gear from one of these elements breaks down or malfunctions, operators and repair specialists from within that unit first troubleshoot the issue and attempt to correct it. If the nature of the problem is non-routine, the work gets passed on to the Maintenance Det.
As the rest of the MEU conducts sustainment training here, the detachment has found an opportunity to set-up its repair assets fully for the first time during the deployment, said McAllister.
"Our specific goal here is to finish all of our corrective and preventive maintenance," he said.
According to McAllister, the detachment has been fixing or maintaining five to 10 vehicles per day, often laboring around the clock to fulfill its vital role of keeping the MEU mission ready.
"If we are waiting on a part to fix something, it doesn't matter what time it gets to us," he explained. "We are going to get to work right away, because it is our job to help make sure the fighters are in the fight."
Ensuring the Maintenance Detachment always has the parts necessary to make repairs is the responsibility of CLB-26's Supply Administration section.
"This has been a big test to see how fast we can get the parts here," said Sgt. Jason E. Forrester, the CLB-26 Supply Admin chief and a native of South Fulton, Tenn.
He explained that the heavy workload shouldered here by the Maintenance Det. has included a need for parts not normally kept in stock, forcing the logistics battalion's supply sections to quickly locate alternative sources to keep the wrenches turning.
With the necessary tools and components to keep their efforts going, the work here has been plentiful, dirty and rewarding for the Marine maintainers, said Cpl. Phillip A. Foiles, an Assault Amphibian Vehicle mechanic with the Maintenance Det. and a native of Hanahan, S.C.
"This job is great because it is so hands-on," he said. "At the end of the day I can look back on all the work I got done and say, 'Yep, I fixed all that'."
The 26th MEU is currently on a routine, scheduled deployment as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group. The MEU has so far completed successful training exercises in Djibouti, Kenya and the Middle East.
In addition to CLB-26, the MEU is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 2/2; and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced).
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil.