Face of Defense: Deployed Soldier Finds Home With Old Motorbike
By Sgt. John Young
Vermont Army National Guard
GHAZNI, Afghanistan, June 7, 2010 When soldiers with the Vermont Army National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) arrived here at Forward Operating Base Vulcan, they didn’t know what they would find.
Spc. Skyler W. Genest, a military policeman with the Vermont Army National Guard, takes his project bike for a ride in Ghazni, Afghanistan, April 13, 2010. Army photo by Sgt. John Young
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Spc. Skyler W. Genest and his colleagues discovered a disassembled early-1970s motorcycle, which Genest found to be just the type of challenge he needed to help pass the time and deal with being so far from home.
"We gathered everything up and brought it back to our room and started to look at it to see if we could get it to run," Genest said. "I know a little bit about motorcycles, so on our down time we started to take it apart to see if we could get it back together."
A long-time motorcycle enthusiast, Genest is stationed here as a military policeman with Detachment 1, attached to the 1/172nd Cavalry Squadron from Northfield, Vt.
When he is not working with the Guard, Genest is employed by the University of Vermont’s police department. During the summer, he rides with the university’s motorcycle patrol unit.
When Genest found the motorcycle, he and his comrades could not wait to work on it.
"It was in decent shape, the frame was all there," Genest said. "It was not real pretty, but everything we needed to run it was there, so we started working on it."
Getting the motorcycle to run wasn’t without its challenges, he said. Many parts were unusable due to the age of the bike, but its neglect did not stop Genest. He compiled a list of needed parts and looked for replacements in his spare time during local missions.
"Some of the things we found were a throttle cable and some fuel line on our first mission out," Genest said. "That is the goal; mission by mission, we would find pieces and parts and what we needed to keep it running. We would enlist the help of the interpreters when we went out, and they would find the parts we needed from the local bike shop owners, and they would hook us up with the parts we needed."
The motorcycle’s original gas tank was unusable, so the soldiers employed a little GI ingenuity to replace it with a .50-caliber ammunition box. The box is fitted and sealed with a fuel control valve, complete with a fuel filter sealed to prevent leakage.
"The [new] fuel tank really stands out," Genest said. "When we got it, we saw the original tank was completely rusted out on the inside. So our innovative idea was to take an ammo can and put it where the rusted tank was. We just have to scrounge to get anything to keep this running."
The old motorcycle “started life out as a Honda," Genest said. "It is a 125n, an early 1970's model, but it has some aftermarket parts on it.”
Fixing the old Honda “reminds me of home back in Vermont,” Genest said. “I like to work on small engines. Hopefully, when it is running, it will help to relive some stress as I run it around the base."
Genest said he has no plans to bring the motorcycle back to Vermont. "We are going to leave it for the next unit or give it to the interpreters,” he said. "We are not going to try to bring this thing home. The bike belongs in this country. I'm sure somebody will get some enjoyment out of it when we leave."