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Combined Task Force Bronco Keeps Vehicles Ready to Roll

By Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2004 – The broad, relentless terrain of Afghanistan presents a challenge to the soldiers serving in Operating Enduring Freedom. To accomplish their mission, they rely heavily upon wheeled vehicles, but the terrain is unforgiving to these machines, demanding that maintenance specialists ensure the equipment is always ready.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Lee Coco, Combined Task Force Bronco mechanic, repairs the door of an up-armored Humvee at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Coco is responsible for the maintenance of all vehicles at Kandahar, as well as any vehicles from the firebases throughout Regional Command South. Photo by Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA

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

"In the rear, we don't use trucks as much," said Army Sgt. Lee Coco, a mechanic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combined Task Force Bronco here. "Here, we sometimes work from sunup to sundown, keeping the trucks up and moving."

Rough terrain causes most of the damage to the vehicles. But other factors, such as damage from roadside bombs and land mines, affect the performance of vehicles like the up-armored Humvees. These factors pose a whole new challenge to mechanics.

"The up-armored vehicles are a lot harder to work on," said Coco. "But the extra work I have to do is worth it, because that extra protection allows our soldiers to walk away from accidents with minor or no injuries."

Coco is responsible for the maintenance of any vehicle brought to the CTF Bronco consolidated motor pool, including those brought in from units operating outside the airfield. This is a process that puts a lot of pressure on him, and also requires a lot of coordination.

"It's important that we make sure the parts keep flowing," said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Benito, CTF Bronco consolidated motor pool shop foreman. Benito tracks more than 20 CTF Bronco mechanics positioned throughout Regional Command South, as well as the vehicles they maintain.

One way the soldiers keep the vehicles operational is by ensuring regular maintenance is conducted. "The easiest way to prevent a downed vehicle is to do little things like tighten bolts regularly," said Coco. A little minor upkeep keep goes a long way in lightening equipment stress and keeping vehicles mission ready.

Limiting the stress on the vehicles, in turn, limits the stress put on those who maintain them. But when the mechanics need someone to go to, all they have to do is look to the motor sergeant.

Army Master Sgt. Ron Elsenheimer, CTF Bronco motor sergeant, considers it his responsibility to ensure they are taken care of.

"It's important that we let them know individually that we care about them," he said of his soldiers. One way Elsenheimer does this is by ensuring they get the personal items they need while they are at firebases. He also rotates the soldiers to different locations to build their morale.

"My soldiers don't just do their job," he said. "Every convoy the infantry goes on, one of my mechanics is with them. And every time I send one of them out, I make sure I shake their hand and spend some time with them before they go. This is my family here, and I'd work with any one of them, anywhere."

(Army Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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