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Face of Defense: Soldier’s Creativity Benefits Mission, Morale

By Army Spc. Reginald M. Graham Jr.
16th Combat Aviation Brigade

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 23, 2014 – An allied trade specialist with Task Force Bellator here uses his creativity not only to enhance his unit’s mission effectiveness, but also to raise his morale.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Marshall R. Meeks prepares pieces he will use to make a cart to transport heavy equipment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 7, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Sgt. Marshall R. Meeks enlisted as a metal worker in 2006. As the Army transitioned, his military occupational specialty was combined with the machinist specialty to produce more versatile soldiers.

Meeks, a San Antonio native, said he enlisted as a way to expand on abilities he had developed in his civilian life. “I used to be a mechanic, [used to] build houses, and was a freelance contractor,” he said. “I joined the Army to be a welder.”

Now serving on his third deployment, Meeks transitioned from supporting ground units most of his career to supporting aviation with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. His ability to weld, mold and create products from scratch makes him a highly sought commodity among the unit’s logisticians, mechanics, crew chiefs, pilots and senior leaders.

“Being in a welding shop is a real spotlight,” he said. “A lot of people get you to build a lot of different stuff. They will give me a blueprint with tolerances. … As long as you make it to that print, then you are good to go.”

Meeks assisted soldiers in his support battalion by building a cart to carry Hellfire missiles and their cases, which weigh almost 250 pounds each. Moving each case used to require four soldiers carrying it, but now the task requires just one soldier rolling a cart.

Meeks said that on a previous deployment, he was shown a picture of a missile cart, but it carried only the missile and not the case. “I made one so the whole [case] fit in there,” he said. “You can just take the top off … and have the bottom half roll under the wing of the [helicopter].”

When Meeks is not making something for missions, he is turning his military trade into a hobby. In the middle of a work area filled with blowtorches, welding helmets and scrap metal stands an array of animal figurines made from leftover metal that otherwise would be thrown away after a job.

Meeks said he and other soldiers in his shop were off work one day and decided the scraps could be made into things worth keeping. He now uses the shop’s scraps and his imagination to make the figurines out of what would be junk.

Meanwhile, Meeks continues to build his future.

“My next big goal is to finish my schooling,” he said, noting that he has accumulated 28 semester hours in engineering and welding science.

With 12-hour work days, constant requests for missions and a continuation of bettering himself, Meeks said, he has found a way to create an environment that enables individuality within the confines of the unit.

“You can make anything you want as long as you have imagination and the will to do it,” he said.


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