FORT MCCOY, Wis. –
For the first time, a four-day practical hydraulics course was taught here from Nov. 15-18, 2021.
“I wanted the students to walk away knowing the six components which make hydraulics possible as well as the ability to develop a working basic hydraulic circuit,” said instructor Brant Amble.
To teach the latter, the students trained on a MF102H hydraulic circuit simulator. It gives students the ability to build different types of hydraulic circuits which helps them understand hydraulic components and what they do in a variety of applications. The simulator also has pressure gauges, which were used to record system pressures during tests.
Melissa Guthmiller, the LST scheduler/planner, said this hydraulics class was added to the fiscal year calendar because it was requested frequently by students who had taken prior LST classes after they were asked what course would benefit their shop the most.
Sgt. Justin Meidinger, a wheeled vehicle mechanic based at the 452nd Ordnance Company, 561st Regional Support Group, 394th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Aberdeen, S.D., said he enrolled in the class to better understand hydraulics and troubleshoot problems more proficiently. He has been in the Reserve for 17 years, 12 of those as a Military Technician at the Area Maintenance Support Activity 108-Branch Maintenance Activity-1 in Aberdeen.
Fellow Soldier and co-worker, Sgt. Larry Woodell, also a wheeled vehicle mechanic, said he too wanted to grasp a better understanding on how hydraulics work but also teach a fellow coworker what he learned in the class.
Amble pointed out that several pieces of military machinery operate with a hydraulics system. Case in point, a Humvee. A Humvee has a hydraulic power steering pump which makes it easier to steer, he said.
“Hydraulics is really important in the military but we don’t spend much time on it,” said Amble. “The military mindset is let’s replace the part. Let’s replace all three parts.”
He said instead of replacing a part, which sometimes could cost more than $20,000, the easy fix could be a valve adjustment.
“There is an adjustment screw on most valves,” said Amble.
For example, if a 120M Motor Grader’s hydraulic pump is sluggish or not working, an adjustment of the pump’s output valve could be all it takes to fix it.
“If you don’t have to replace them (parts), why do it? said Amble.
The students were introduced to Pascal’s Law, which includes an automobile’s hydraulic braking system, and the six components that make a hydraulic circuits operate.
“By the time we started making circuits, the mechanics were talking about how they would approach past hydraulic issues differently,” said Amble. “I also talked them through a couple of current hydraulic issues using schematics for the platforms with the problems.”
“I learned how hydraulic systems work and how to read hydraulic system schematics,” said Woodell, who has been a MILTEC for seven years.
Amble pointed out that hydraulics could also be taught in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Operation Platinum Wrench program, where in-depth training sessions are provided for mechanics so they can stay current of their skills on a variety of vehicles and Army equipment. He suggested that the Soldiers could even do a stand-up class while on annual training.
“They could walk away with knowledge that they never would get unless they went to a tech school,” said Amble.
The hydraulics class will be offered at Fort McCoy while there is still a demand, said Guthmiller. She noted that the course will be removed from the fiscal training calendar and not offered at the fort annually once the numbers decrease but it will still be offered as a Mobile Training Team or a Pop-Up Course in the upcoming years.