Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Military Equipment Categories

This is the next in line for the military stories posts.

When I was a young sergeant, I was transferred from the easy life of a desk jockey in Germany to the Intelligence Center in Arizona.  It wasn't the same as being sent to a division, but it was a big difference for me.  I'd spent the last three years learning how to shuffle and produce paperwork with the best of them, and now I was drawing field gear and heading out to the desert to learn, train, test, and fix.

My first day with my unit was Monday.  Monday was Motor Pool Day.  Our battalion commander sergeant major loved the motor pool.  It was brand spanking new, so he made us keep it looking new.  Think steam cleaning vehicles every time we drove them off of concrete and sweeping the red kalichi dust off of the tarmac at least once a day.  Think using a plumb line to make sure all of the trucks were lined up in a perfectly straight line.  He was one heck of a sergeant major, but he was over the top in an occupation that makes everyone who succeeds a little OCD.

On the plus side, he made the mechanics personally responsible for any equipment in the motor pool that didn't work, even if fixing them was my job.  That meant that when a vehicle, trailer, or generator stopped functioning, they came out and made heroic efforts to either fix it or get it replaced.

My platoon was equipped with one HMMWV, six M577 armored command posts, and six 10kw diesel generators, along with assorted trailers and such.  In Germany, if I needed a military vehicle, I'd sign out a VW van. Electricity came out of a wall socket, and water came out of a faucet.  Here, I was signing for a 35 ton APC, learning the care and feeding of a diesel generator, and washing/drinking out of a water buffalo trailer.  Since I was the new guy, regardless of rank, I got the track, trailer, and generator with the most problems.  I got to know our mechanics very very well over the next couple of years.

Within a week of signing for my track and all its contents, we were prepping to go to the field for a week.  By the field, I don't mean go out and train under a scenario to sharpen your warfighting skills.  By the field, I mean drive out to a training area, set up all of your equipment to highly inspected standards, and give the same training to mostly uninterested officers, NCO's, and IET privates. Our job in the TOC was to set up, give briefings on the technology we had to show the students, and then run the students through a few hours of simulated use of the equipment in the afternoon.  It was interesting the first couple of times I did it.  It got old fast.

Halfway through the 3rd day of doing this, my generator started roaring like a jet trying to take off and billowing black smoke.  It got shut down before it blew up or caught fire, and we connected and fired up the spare.  The next day, the motor pool sent out Specialist P to work on it.  SPC P was one of the head generator mechanics, and was a walking fire plug of a Puerto Rican.   He took one look at the generator, and pronounced it "f***'ed". 

Thinking he was being sarcastic, I inquired where in the manual I could find the correcting procedures for a f***'ed generator.  He gave me the look he must have reserved for fools and small children.

"Sergeant, no military gear is ever good, even when it's brand new.  There are only three classifications of equipment:  Broken, Fixed, and F***'ed.   Broken means that it's not working but can be fixed.  Fixed means it's working and hasn't broken yet.  F***'ed means it's not working and nothing we can do will make it work again.  Your generator is f***'ed.  You should tow it back to the motor pool and we'll work on getting it sent to the depot to be repaired or replaced."

As I've become the mechanic version of an IT worker, I've taken this philosophy to heart.  No equipment is ever good.  It may be working now, but it's only a matter of time before it fails.  The trick is to know what is most likely to fail and be prepared for it.  And when it's f***'ed, be ready to admit and and get a new one.


Shannon said...

This philosophy could very well apply to the human race as well as machines.

DaddyBear said...

That's a good point. You can just ask my wife and she'll say I'm never right, just not wrong yet.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

That's an awesome bit of wisdom to live by. Thanks for sharing!

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