Mechanics Battle Taliban, Snow, Terrain to Keep Vehicles Working
By Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, March 19, 2008 Mechanics from Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, have their work cut out for them here.
Army Spc. Nathan Bolt-Ray, a mechanic in Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, turns a wrench while fixing a radiator on Forward Operating Base Keating in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province Feb. 28, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The mechanics are stationed at Forward Operating Base Keating, located in a valley between two snow-melt-fed rivers in the Hindu Kush mountain range. Vehicle rollovers, flash floods, road washouts and rock and snow avalanches are just a few of the hazards that make maintaining vehicles a challenge.
During the winter, Taliban extremists and coalition forces alike are forced to stay near their homes and bases, or face battling the elements.
“One of the things about the snow, when it fell, it made things very difficult around here,” said Army Spc. Larry Gonzales, a 33-year-old construction and vehicle repair mechanic. More than four feet of snow fell in the valley this winter. Combat Outpost Warheit, which overlooks FOB Keating, had more than eight feet of snow. The snow made movement extremely difficult.
“Mobilewise, airwise, waterwise -- everything was freezing up,” Gonzales said. “The fuel even started to gel.”
When the snow receded, soldiers on FOB Keating were able to start on projects the snow had hindered. Gonzales and Army Spc. Nathan Bolt-Ray, a mechanic in Bravo Troop, worked on a Humvee that was damaged during a Feb. 22 firefight.
“We’re replacing the radiator in the Humvee,” Bolt-Ray said. “The radiator took shrapnel from a (rocket propelled grenade).”
But enemy action is only part of what keeps the unit’s mechanics busy.
“As you can see by the bullet holes in a lot of these vehicles’ trunks, they’ve taken quite the beating,” Bolt-Ray said. “The roads -- I guess you can call them that -- also take their turn beating on the vehicles.”
But damage is damage, whether it’s from bullets, rocks or the elements. All that matters to the mechanics here is keeping the unit’s vehicles rolling.
(Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird serves with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)