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Army Reserve instructor combines passion, knowledge into maintenance training

By Sgt. Rodney Roldan | Exercise News Day | July 25, 2019

FORT MCCOY, Wis. —

Behind each door of the four-bay motor pool at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, stood the Army’s latest addition to its tactical vehicle fleet, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). 

Each of the vehicles towered over instructors and students, as Soldiers sorted out technical manuals, removed uniform tops, and gathered inspection tools in preparation for the hands-on portion of the Field Level Maintenance New Equipment Training (FLMNET) course taking place in July 2019.

Staff Sgt. James Gray, a native of Indiana, and an Army Reserve instructor out of South Bend, Indiana, cleaned his safety glasses and sifted through the pages of his technical manual, as he prepared for what he saw as a unique opportunity.

His passion is for vehicle maintenance. He pours knowledge and experience into his lesson plan, especially for a vehicle he believes can make a difference out in the field. 

“This is the most sophisticated, most capable wheeled vehicle that the military has today. This truck should be able to tackle just about any obstacle that we need to overcome and is very safe for the Soldier,” said Gray, who is with the 94th Training Division, 3rd Brigade. “Think about the old Humvees and how much you would get bounced around on the secondary roads, and how many injuries came about that. This truck is a lot smoother, a more comfortable ride, (has) a lot more technology, and is a lot safer all around.”

The JLTV is scheduled to replace the current High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Humvee. Compared the Humvee, the JLTV can better handle terrain at faster speeds and has the ability to ride through five feet of water due to its suspension system. 

Gray used this knowledge and his experience as a work leader for the Area Maintenance Support Activity (AMSA) on post to train several U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers and contractors who traveled from across the U.S. to attend the FLMNET course. Gray’s military and civilian jobs are similar in responsibilities. He trains fellow military mechanics on a variety of vehicles, including the JLTV.
“Each (student) will focus on familiarization, introduction, operations, maintenance troubleshooting, and a test at the end that all students will need to pass. Today we will focus on brakes and the (central tire inflation system),” said Gray. 

In addition, students were broken up into groups and tasked with checking solenoids and transmission inspection. 

Part of the driving force behind his passion to teach, in addition to his technical knowledge, came from the losses he experienced while on two combat tours in Iraq involving improvised explosive device (IED) attacks while riding in tactical vehicles. 

“I’ve had friends that have been blown up by IEDs and not been so lucky. I have been hit by an IED and walked away with scratches and bruises, so I’ve had a lot of close calls and lost a few friends and that’s one of the reasons the new equipment is important to me, and how safe it is for the Soldiers,” said Gray.

Although safety is key when it comes to mission planning and execution, training Soldiers to be proficient at their jobs is something that Gray believes in, which coincides with the needs of the U.S. Army Reserve. 

“General Luckey wants to get as many Reserve Soldiers trained up and familiar with this truck as he can … so that the Reserve force is ready to back up active duty (in case of a deployment),” said Gray, referring to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey.