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As End of Tour Approaches, Truckers' Mission Continues

Sgt. Andy Mehler, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade

Sgt. Steven Gabriel of Lebanon, Pa., is a motor sergeant in the 628th Aviation Support Battalion, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. He is responsible for ensuring the Truck Platoon's vehicles are well-maintained and mission-ready.


When a deployed unit begins to approach their end-of-tour date, many Soldiers begin to shift their focus from deployment to re-deployment. For those involved in the logistics, focus is everything.

Each piece of equipment must be accounted for and prepared for shipment back home. It's a time of careful planning, cleaning, counting and packing.

But what happens in a support unit responsible for performing its mission until the final moment? How does a section perform its duties while preparing for a big move? Mechanics, for example, face the pressures of repairing vehicles in a timely manner while also taking the necessary steps to shut down their operations.

Sgt. Nic Light is a mechanic deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Contingency Operating Base Adder with Headquarters Support Company, 628th Aviation Support Battalion, as a part of the mobilization of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. Light works in the 628th ASB's motor pool, where units park their vehicles and repairs are made.

Light, a Lebanon, Pa., native said the motor pool's mechanics collectively operate nearly 24 hours each day. They are grouped into work teams. While some mechanics work on vehicle repairs and maintenance, others are tasked with cleaning and packing tools. Light said they must pull all tools and equipment from their storage trailers, inventory them, clean them individually, pressure wash the trailer and then replace all the tools inside. The storage trailer is then locked until it can be inspected by customs officials for shipment back home.

It is a big job to inventory and clean the mobile tool sets, but according to Light, "They are doing a hell of a job on cleaning tools, which have to be completely dust and dirt free." That's not an easy task in a desert environment.

Light said they faced another big hurdle as well. No support was in place for non-tactical vehicles, the civilian-model trucks and sport-utility vehicles used around the camp.

"We had to build up a parts stock and create an inventory for them," he said.

According to Light, the mechanics had to research all of the parts and corresponding stock numbers for the civilian vehicles and enter them into their existing military parts data base for future ordering needs.

Updating the parts inventory to include civilian vehicles will greatly assist the incoming unit assuming maintenance operations. Light said very soon the mechanics will be unable to order parts because their online system will be shut down, and the order of future items needed for repairs will become the responsibility of the incoming unit. That could mean that an inoperable vehicle may remain off the road until the replacement unit is able to fix it.

To avoid that possibility, the maintenance crew is working hard to quickly get disabled vehicles back on the road and mission-ready, while at the same time preparing to shut down and head back home. The supervisor of the mechanics' operation is Chief Warrant Officer 4 Blaine McKivison, a resident of Annville, Pa.

The motor pool is also the operations area for the Truck Platoon of Company A, 628th ASB, which transports cargo around COB Adder. As their deployment winds down, the Truck Platoon remains very busy assisting in the expansion of the camp. The platoon has been hauling large storage containers and housing trailers, as well as cement security walls and road barriers that are placed around the living areas for added safety.

Staff Sgt. Douglas Kimmel, platoon sergeant from Manheim, Pa., supervises the platoon's operations and coordinates missions with battalion leadership. The motor sergeants, Sgt. Steven Gabriel of Kane, Pa., and Sgt. Michal Franklin of Ephrata, Pa., ensure the platoon's vehicles are well-maintained and mission-ready. According to Kimmel, his platoon will use their assigned vehicles until they turn over their transportation operations to the incoming unit.

"The only thing that could potentially be an issue for us is if the mechanics have already discontinued their operations prior to our missions being completed," Kimmel said.

Even as Soldiers prepare to go back home, their missions at COB Adder remain top priority. The Soldiers of the 628th ASB continue to keep support operations flowing in anticipation of turning over all responsibilities to their replacement units. When the 628th ASB does return home, the battalion can rest assured it has served the 28th CAB well, and the men and women of the 628th can look back on this deployment with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

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