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NEWS | July 7, 2021

AMSA 133: “We’re a motor sergeant’s best friend”

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

Like a pit crew that ensures its race car runs at top performance, that’s exactly what Army Reserve unit mechanics do to guarantee their vehicles are ready for annual training or deployment.

The 20 team members of the 88th Readiness Division Area Maintenance Support Activity 133 and Branch Maintenance Activity help unit wrench turners with that big job. The AMSA in South Bend, Ind., and BMA in Fort Wayne, Ind., work on every type of vehicle in the Army’s inventory. The team is comprised of the overall shop supervisor, mechanics, maintenance administrative supply technician, tools and parts attendant, inspectors and work leaders. At present, four of the employees are away from the work site on deployment or full-time orders.

AMSA 133 enables unit readiness a number of different ways.

“We make sure the unit’s equipment is at a state of readiness at all times,” explained Jim Walkowski, shop supervisor. The AMSA works closely with the unit motor sergeant or the full-time person responsible for maintenance-related items, like an Army Reserve administrator.

“We’ve got to find that key person we can work with to explain why it’s important to get out there to exercise the equipment and use it month in and month out when there are no Soldiers there, and why we honor maintenance schedules,” Walkowski said.

The AMSA also reaches out to the unit commanders to address their concerns and needs and keep them in the communication loop.

Another essential component of readiness is training. The AMSA provides Global Combat Support System-Army training as needed based on the experience level of the Motor Sergeant or other unit maintenance points of contact. GCSS-A is a logistics and finance system. At the AMSA shops it is used to open work orders, order parts and record what services and repairs are done to which vehicles.

Army Reserve units use GCSS-A to record primary maintenance checks and services for each vehicle, open their own work orders, order their own parts and supplies, issue driver’s licenses and record vehicle usage. There is also a supply portion of GCSS-A used for inventories, hand receipts and ordering supplies.

“Some of the motor sergeants are brand new, so it can be in-depth training, including how to cut work orders, what to look for when inspecting vehicles, how to close out work orders,” Walkowski said.

AMSA 133 supports 11 units for equipment maintenance and small arms service and repair, and 22 units for just the latter. The region they serve runs from Traverse City, Mich., in the northern part of the state to Grissom Air Force Base, Ind., outside Indianapolis.

When a vehicle comes into the AMSA, an inspector like Kenny Frantz examines it for additional defects, verifies faults, and “makes sure the unit gets back a serviceable piece of equipment,” he said. He also works with units to ensure PMCS is conducted, gives training to units and networks with other shops to get parts. He’s been with AMSA 133 since 2003. He works as a 91B, wheeled vehicle mechanic, for the 102nd Training Division.

Frantz acknowledges the reality that “units don’t typically have people with a lot of experience, or the time available” to perform maintenance. “It’s hard for motor sergeants to get the part-time Soldiers to do wrench turning. We understand their constraints.”

Roughly 90 percent of maintenance is done at the AMSA shop. Walkowski explained how they recently brought vehicles back from Hobart, Ind. The unit had received six new M916 tractor trucks. The AMSA worked with the motor sergeant to get the work orders, traveled there and picked them up.

“There is only one motor sergeant and for him to get six trucks out here, that would have been six days of work. So we brought the vehicles back here. We’re going to get them inspected,” Walkowski said.

Walkowski noted that “we have flexed at times when we’ve been really busy and we’ve sent guys out to Kingsbury, Ind., where they have a bay system for tanker purging and testing. We do that for efficiency and cost effectiveness.”

Kingsbury is an 88th RD Local Training Area located 45 miles west of South Bend.

One of the unit motor sergeants who has benefited from a close partnership with AMSA 133 is Sgt. 1st Class James Roby with the 855th Quartermaster Company located next to the shop.

He noted that “the majority of the time I’m here by myself. We have nearly 24 vehicles that the AMSA has serviced for the unit before a major training event.” This ensures the unit is ready for any mission.

Another is Sgt. Aaron Werner with the 766th Transportation Battalion, also located in the same area as the AMSA. “I have a good working relationship with the AMSA shop. They help with services and do a really good job. They’re efficient and the turnaround time is good.”

One of the team members of AMSA 133 is Garlin Saintice, a mechanic who has been with the shop for three years and who is also a military technician and laundry and shower specialist with the 855th Quartermaster Company. He has benefited by working as a MILTECH by obtaining a variety of driver certifications that allow him to safely operate equipment like forklifts. He also brings his wrench turning expertise to the unit, as the Soldiers there don’t have the degree of knowledge working on equipment that he does, he said.

“We’re a motor sergeant’s best friend,” he said.

Another MILTECH mechanic is Justin Young, who’s been with the AMSA for a year. He’s a 91B with the 656th Transportation Company. “I’m already qualified, and I feel more confident when I train my Soldiers. You get a lot more knowledge when you work in the shop every day. It helps the unit,” he said.