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Soldiers dig deep for wheeled vehicle mechanic training

By Sgt. Alicia Pennisi | Exercise News Day | Aug. 1, 2019

Fort McCoy, WI. —

 A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 20, 2019. 

The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so Soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.

“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto “You call, we haul.” “We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside – we always go out in the worst possible conditions.” 

The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each Soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the Soldiers carried on without hesitation.

“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these Soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my Soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.

Each Soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery. 

According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the Soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other Soldiers can get on with theirs, she added. 

Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure Soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie. 

“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.

Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.

“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.

Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, Soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wraps up July 24, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.