News: 557th Maintenance Company; Mission First
SGT RACHEL BRUNE
101ST SUSTAINMENT BDE
FOB SPEICHER, Iraq " The 557th Maintenance Company had no warning of, or training for, what turned out to be the unit's riskiest mission during its tour of duty in Iraq, according to Capt. Christopher Haluzak, company commander, of Hartford, Wis.
"Within 24 hours [of notice], we put together two teams and began training," said 1st Lt. William Ramey, 557th executive officer, of Warren, Ohio. "In two weeks, we began doing missions."
The mission the officers spoke of was not the unit's ordinary duties of providing direct support to the Speicher-based 42nd Infantry Division.
Instead the active-duty company, from Fort Irwin, Calif., was tasked to perform an additional combat vehicle-recovery mission. The mission entailed retrieving battle- or accident-damaged vehicles from the roads of Iraq.
The unit performed this mission without losing any Soldiers or equipment, according to Chief Warrant Officer (2) David Hooker, 557th recovery operations OIC, of Columbus, Ohio.
"Now is the time for the new guys to take what we started and put their spin on it," said Hooker.
The "new guys" are the Soldiers of the 584th Maintenance Company, an active-duty unit from Fort Campbell, Ky., which recently arrived at Speicher to take over the mission.
"We had our baptism by fire the other day," said Spc. Thomas Rankin, a 584th wrecker driver/operator from Hampton, Va.
On his first mission, Rankin and his fellow Soldiers faced the challenge of recovering a heavy equipment truck transporter, or HETT.
"It was my first time recovering that [type of] vehicle," said Rankin.
"We had to figure out how to hook up with the frame [of the HETT] bent," said 2nd Lt. Sam Karr, 584th recovery team OIC, of Manhattan, Kan.
The 584th knew about the recovery mission before deploying, and were able to complete some training for it. However, the most helpful advice came from the 557th, according to Karr.
"They've been doing the mission for a year, and they know the ins and outs of it," said Karr.
The most important piece of advice Hooker had for the Soldiers was, to never get comfortable and never let their guards down. Flexibility is important, as the methods of operating on the roads are subject to change.
"I'm not an expert," said Hooker. "What I know, I learned from my Soldiers."
Spc. Edward Carmean, recovery team M240B gunner, from Snow Hill, Md., was still waiting for his chance to go on a mission. Although the gunners had already qualified before arriving at Speicher, they were required to qualify again once they arrived.
"It's a safety measure to make sure we're up to speed," said Carmean.
The 557th taught the newcomers how to spot improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and other skills for safe completion of combat logistics missions, said Spc. Lucinda Warner, 584th recovery team driver, of Three Rivers, Mich.
Warner, who serves with Team Merlin, served as a truck driver before switching her trade and training as a mechanic. Rankin and Warner are only two of several Soldiers on the teams who have skills both as drivers and mechanics.
"I have faith in the team that I'm with," said Warner, who added, she feels ready to get out on the roads.
As the 584th readied for its new mission and surroundings, the 557th waited to catch a plane back to California. The unit's leaders spoke of their Soldiers with pride in their accomplishments.
"These guys stepped up and did [the mission] all year long," said Ramey. "It was a great experience for me, and I'm really proud of them."