May 7, 2009

3647th Maintenance Company heads to Iowa for valuable training

By Sgt. John Slosser
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

BLACKSTONE, Va. — A noise roared within the workshop, alerting them all of a “runaway engine.”  The sound intensified as one Soldier dashed to disable the redlining engine and save it from self destruction. The noise stopped, and everyone exhaled a sigh of relief. He just saved another unit from losing a valuable resource, which is exactly what these Soldier mechanics train to do.

  3647th Maintenance Company

Spc. Timothy Hensen (left) and Sgt. William Harver from the 3647th Maintenance Company use a welder while training at Camp Dodge, Iowa. The Blackstone-based unit traveled to Iowa in late April for two weeks of maintenance specific training and experience. (Photo courtesy of 3647th Maintenance Company) Click HERE for a full-size version of the photo.

One hundred and four Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 3647th Maintenance Company recently returned from a two-week stay at the National Maintenance Training Center at Camp Dodge, Iowa. For many National Guard Units, annual training usually consists of two weeks in the “field,” enduring the elements and shooting weapons. Units like the 3647th take the time to brush up their own particular set of skills and experiences.
The NMTC offers a specialized training rotation for military occupations that would fall under a field maintenance shop. The Soldiers of the 3647th   setup their own shop office and fell in on equipment and work orders just as they would on a deployment. They prioritized work orders and managed a full schedule work flow that utilized the wide array of skills their unit has to offer. The unit “trains to maintain” with an automotive section, an armament section, and a ground support equipment section (mostly generators). They repair construction equipment, chemical equipment, and also have a service and recovery section which utilizes several machinists and welders.  
“We hit the ground and went straight to work. I am brand new to this unit and had no idea what this unit was capable of,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick Reed, maintenance control officer. “Now I have a clear idea of what this unit’s mission is, what my job is, and the things we can accomplish for the customers that we support.”

  3647th Maintenance Company

Pfc. Charles Smith, from the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company, fabricates repair parts with a drill press. Many Soldiers in the unit said their two weeks of annual training at Camp Dodge, Iowa gave them new skills and opportunities. (Photo courtesy of 3647th Maintenance Company) Click HERE for a full-size version of the photo.

Many Soldiers joked about Iowa’s seasonal weather and how it felt good to back home in the warmth of Virginia. Regardless of the weather, most of the mechanics remarked at the overall value in their training and experience in Iowa.

“Every one who went learned something. It gave a lot of the younger Soldiers a lot of time to work on their [Military Occupational Specialties], something they probably haven’t done since they were in [Advanced Individual Training],” said Sgt. Steven Delaney Sr. a generator repair section leader. “I learned quite a bit myself. For once, I didn’t turn wrenches, I did paper work. I had never done the paperwork side, and a bunch of the younger Soldiers that had never turned wrenches on generators before. So we all got that new experience.”

Delaney also commented on one particular memorable moment in the shop.

“We did have a high speed sergeant who saved a unit a couple thousand dollars, because there was a run away engine. From what I understand it was revving pretty high,” Delaney said. “We call him ‘Superman’ because he dashed to the scene and stopped the engine from blowing up.”

Other Soldiers also commented on the high caliber of training and equipment available for maintenance units to use at Camp Dodge.

“I just got off active duty. I did six years active duty and I have never seen this standard of training anywhere on active duty. It was very educational and moreover, we did a lot of hands on mechanics and paperwork,” said Sgt. Mohomed Azeez, generator section member. “Camp Dodge is a top-notch training facility. They have great living quarters, working areas, equipment, and also an excellent staff.”

  3647th Maintenance Company

Capt. Jezmon  Lewis and 2nd Lt. Patrick Reed present the National Maintenance Training Center Staff at Camp Dodge, Iowa with an award in April 2009. Soldiers from the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company fabricated the custom metal plaque in the machine shop with the tools of their trade. (Photo courtesy of 3647th Maintenance Company) Click HERE for a full-size version of the photo.

Several Soldiers, who have been deployed in the past, commented that their two weeks of annual training in Iowa served as a very appropriate and realistic example of what the unit could expect down-range. 

“I am much more confident now, especially in my Soldiers, and you know, they really shined,” said Sgt. Carl Booker, chemical equipment section leader. “We were in the shop every day. It was a lot of long hours and hard work, but it all pays off.”

At the end of the 3647th’s time at Camp Dodge, the unit even applied their skills toward fabricating a custom metal plaque of Virginia, and presented it as a sign of thanks to the NMTC’s helpful staff.

“This was outstanding training,” said Reed. “Every Soldier that went on this trip is better trained and more prepared than when we left. The National Maintenance Training Center is a great facility and I would recommend it to any maintenance unit.”

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