Fort Polk, La. –
FORT POLK, La. -- A gentle breeze pushes aside the thick dingy white plastic flaps as it enters the area, muddling with the lingering smell of motor oil and fluids and traverses through the makeshift space. Figures in worn greenish black suits, drenched in grease buzz about fervently tinkering with their vast array of tools engineering a mechanical melody.
The maintenance tent of the 542nd Sustainment Maintenance Company has been home to mechanics of the 103rd Quartermaster Company and many other units during the Joint Readiness Training Centers’ rotation 16-04. The units have come together during the exercise to provide maintenance support for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
Mechanics from the 103rd, an Army Reserve unit from Houston, Texas, are working alongside active duty counterparts during their three-week-long annual training exercise.
“The 103rd mechanics have assisted us in wheeled vehicle recoveries, vehicle repairs, A/C repairs, diagnostic repairs and general maintenance on a variety of systems,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andres Arango, an allied trades warrant officer with the 542nd Sustainment Maintenance Company and Miami native.
“It’s been great learning the active components standard operating procedures and implementing them in real life scenarios here,” said Sgt. Jesse Bankston, a Houston, Texas, resident and wheeled vehicle mechanic for the 103rd Quartermaster Company.
The Army and Army Reserve took steps to deliberately and purposefully integrate training among and between components- including major collective training events at combat and regional training centers as well as warrior, combat support training and mission command exercises.
“I like being out here it gives the feeling of a deployment by being in an area you’re not used to working in. With a limited supply of parts if we can fix it instead of replace it really makes an impact,” said Pfc. Da Quan Coker, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 542nd SMC and Philadelphia native.
“For a lot of my guys this exercise is the first time since initial entry training that they’ve actually touched a wrench and actually had an opportunity to practice their job,” said Bankston.
Arango stated that initially it was a challenge meshing all the different units together but as the exercise has progressed he has seen improvement.
“We all haven’t quite got into sync with one another yet and its been difficult to find ways to deal with the different funding associated with parts and supplies, but I feel like we will overcome the obstacles and get to where we need to be,” said Arango.
Moving forward during a period of constrained resources, the Army Reserve will optimize mutual support opportunities to integrate our total force capacity. Synchronizing training objectives to complement one another and achieve increased readiness as a direct and focused outcome.
“Readiness is important, if we can get ready now we will be ready when we go down range and you never know when the next war could break out,” said Coker. “I plan on taking what I’ve learned here and teaching fellow Soldiers at my unit.”
“This has been an excellent opportunity for my Soldiers to get their hands dirty and learn new things because with all the mandatory training its hard to fit job specific training of this caliber within two days a month,” said Bankston.
The Army’s active and reserve components are vital to fulfilling national military needs throughout its operations at home and abroad. Exercises like these are crucial because they allow the Army to continue building strong partnerships between its components through enhanced training opportunities, professional development and shared lessons learned.
“The service was performed as fast as I could’ve hoped for and overall I’m pretty satisfied with the time it took to fix my vehicle,” said Spc. Nathan Lycan a health care specialist with the 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne).