News: SC National Guard wrecker operator trains fellow soldiers
Story by Staff Sgt. Erica Knight
GREENVILLE, S.C.— Sgt. Derrick Dewalt, the main wrecker operator for the 1055th Transportation Company based in Laurens, S.C., has participated in the winter storm response exercise, Operation Palmetto Lightning, twice.
“The biggest change in my 15 years is the newer vehicles,” said Dewalt, who has been an operator with the 1055th since 2008.
Last year, during the Palmetto Lightning exercise, they used the M984 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) to tow the vehicles. Two of the three companies participating in this year’s exercise in Greenville were working with the new Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV).
“This is our first drill with the MTV. The exercise is a chance for our guys to get hands on learning,” said Dewalt. “The guys are doing pretty good for the first time seeing the truck.”
While the function of the MTV is the same as the HEMTT, the controls are very different. Dewalt has the unique challenge of learning the controls in order to teach his soldiers.
“I need to be proficient so I can teach them to be proficient. I have to be able to explain it by the technical manual (TM), not just what I think is right,” he said.
Using the right procedures out of the TM is critical according to Dewalt. But he said there are other places to go for help on the MTV.
“The MTV has a chart on the side that shows what hook up to use for each vehicle,” he said. “It makes it easier not to run to the TM.”
Dewalt has gained much of his experience as a technician at the Field Maintenance Shop (FMS) 2 in Greenville. Every day he gets to tear down and put things back together. He’s learned what different parts should look and sound like, which helps him have an understanding of what can possibly be wrong with a vehicle. When it comes to training soldiers, his daily work shapes his philosophy.
“I try to stand back and let them do it. I already do it every day,” he said. “We can go through the manual all day, but if I can’t get them on the truck to get a feel for right or wrong, they’ll never learn.”
That is what makes training events like Palmetto Lightning so important. To Dewalt, these events are designed for learning, that’s why it’s called training.
“My advice to anyone interested in a mechanical field is that they have to be willing to learn, because it changes,” he said. “It doesn’t get easier.”
Even with all the changes, Dewalt wouldn’t give up his maintenance job for anything.
“I love my job! I love mechanical work and I love teaching new Soldiers,” he said.