FORT MCCOY, Wis. –
The U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who support military police units, specifically mechanics, had the opportunity to hone their skills during Operation Platinum Wrench at the 88th Readiness Division-operated Draw Yard here June 13-16 and June 20-23. They belonged to the 300th Military Police Brigade, Inkster, Michigan, which was undergoing annual training at the base from June 10-26.
Operation Platinum Wrench provides mechanics, including power generation equipment repairman, in the Division’s footprint the chance to be trained by civilian contractors on their skills. These mechanics could repair anything from vehicles that broke down en route to Fort McCoy to vehicles that give out in the field during the unit’s AT. Military Police Companies from three battalions participated in the first OPW rotation and MP companies from two other battalions partook in the operation on the second rotation.
The numbers of service members enrolled in OPW keep increasing. There are 218 scheduled through Aug. 30, 2022, compared to 179 for all the calendar year 2021 when COVID-19 restrictions were in place, said Maj. Jason Sabish, officer in charge of the Draw Yard. “We intend to capture more attendees,” he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Currigan, senior maintenance adviser for the brigade, said OPW is allowing his Soldiers to get the opportunity to learn their Military Occupational Specialties in more detail. One example is performing annual services on vehicles which include changing all the filters to troubleshooting a Humvee water pump or electrical system malfunction.
Currigan, whose first OPW was with a maintenance company as a Troop Program Unit Soldier several years ago, said his Soldiers are enjoying having the ability to work in a maintenance shop and “turning wrenches.” “They’re learning skills that are also perishable,” said Currigan, who has been an Active Guard Reserve Soldier since 2007.
For Sgt. Chad Milander, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the 79th Military Police Company, Wabasha, Minn., and a Military Technician at Area Maintenance Support Activity-155, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, participating in OPW is nothing new for him. He has been in the Reserve for 18 years and trained at OPW most of those years.
He said what he has witnessed at OPW is how more electronics have been added to vehicles. “It is more challenging now because there are a lot of things that can go wrong,” he said.
Milander as a veteran mechanic who is an Automotive Service Excellence- certified master technician, challenges his Soldiers by pairing up a wheeled vehicle mechanic and a non-vehicle mechanic to form a team.” I don’t want them to be uncomfortable but at the same time ensure one is learning from the other and they are learning basic leadership skills and how to get along,” said Milander.
Spc. Mark Toschlog, a utilities equipment repairman assigned to the 377th Military Police Company, Cincinnati, was one of these Soldiers who was being cross trained. As a former heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician, he said he was knowledgeable when it came to repairing generators.
“This (OPW) is very nice for me because of the cross training,” said Toschlog. “I learned about the Humvee’s hydraulic system and the location of the transmission filter. It’s very beneficiary and a lot of knowledge can be obtained.”
When it comes to knowledge obtained, Spc. Umuhani Abdullahi, a power-generation equipment repairer from Kenya, having the opportunity to repair a generator was motivational after serving 2 1/2 years in the Reserve and not having the opportunity to repair one. It took her and a fellow Soldier two hours to change the exhaust in a 3KW military diesel generator but that did not bother her. “It is amazing because now I know I can do that next time,” Abdullahi, who just graduated with a criminal justice degree from the University of Cincinnati, said. “I’m loving it.”
She said before OPW, all she knew how to do with generators was change the oil. She is the only generator mechanic at her unit. When asked how OPW has increased her readiness, she replied, “I am feeling pretty confident with maintaining a generator.”
Another way that OPW is increasing readiness is two-fold, said Milander. First, the vehicles at the Draw Yard with overdue work orders are being repaired which means more mission capable equipment is available to be signed out by units training on the base and second, Soldiers are returning to their units better trained and able to train the trainer on vehicle maintenance.
Toschlog said it best. “How are we going to maintain our knowledge if we are not doing our MOS?”