SINJAR AIRFIELD, Iraq --
What does it take to keep a mechanized infantry battalion rolling? At more than 12 tons each, light armored vehicle sounds like a contradictory name, but there’s nothing light about the mission these Marines have.
“Because of our work, the companies can rest assured that while they’re outside the wire everything will work well on the vehicle so they can do their job, and ultimately, accomplish the battalion’s mission,” said Pfc. Michael J. Peterson, a light armored vehicle mechanic with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Light Reconnaissance Battalion.
Just getting the job done isn’t the only responsibility that falls on these Marines’ shoulders, explained Master Gunnery Sgt. Frank Alessi, maintenance chief for 1st LAR Bn.
“Just in parts, aside from tools or anything else, they’re responsible for roughly $4 million worth of inventory, all of which they have to account for,” said Alessi. “They can do practically everything they would be able to in the states, but the result is much more visible given the tempo of our operations here.”
Comprised of mechanics, engineers, welders, hazardous materials specialists and more, the mission of the maintenance shop is as varied as the Marines themselves, explained Peterson.
“Teamwork is everything here. With all the moving parts and all that goes into making the vehicles run, we have to rely on each other to make it happen,” said Perterson, 19, from Fountain Hills, AZ. “There is no way you can do this job alone, and just like anything else in the Marine Corps, we count on each other to make it happen.”
Learning from one another is a big part of the cooperation that carries the shop, explained Staff Sgt. Shawn Lawson, platoon sergeant for maintenance.
“Seeing the individual improvements of the Marines and then watching them improve as a team is really impressive,” said Lawson, 30, from Grand Junction, Colo. “Sometimes they have to improvise and adapt in lieu of parts and fabricate something that will work.”
As the sole suppliers of readiness for 1st LAR’s vehicles, the Marines of maintenance will have plenty to do in the months ahead, supporting the mission here, said Alessi.
“These guys know how important their job is for the battalion,” said Alessi. “If they don’t do the job right that could put the whole crew at risk. At the end of the day, all we have is each other, and these Marines take care of that.”