News: Iraqi soldiers take life by the wheels
Story by Sgt. Joseph Vine
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The whir and pounding of impact drills and socket wrenches are familiar sounds in a vehicle repair shop. The sound of a mechanic’s mumbling as he tries to loosen a nut on a transfer case is also common. The smell of oil and de-greaser fill the air of many repair-shops throughout U.S. military.
The fact that these sights, sounds and smells can be heard from outside a huge wheeled vehicle repair depot in Iraq may surprise some. The fact that the mechanics responsible for the accompanying sounds of repairs in this shop are Iraqi soldiers should no longer be a surprise.
Since January 2011, the Iraqi army has been fully responsible, with only technical advice and assistance of American advisors, for the maintenance of their humvees at the Joint Base Workshop Wheel Depot, Camp Taji, Iraq.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 25, a group of 80 Iraqi army soldiers have completely overhauled 50 M1114 humvees, 51 humvee engines, 63 humvee transmissions, transfer cases and geared hubs.
Of those 80 soldiers, 30 work on disassembly, 30 on reassembly, and the remaining 20 work in supporting facilities such as the transmission, engine, paint, blast and hydraulic shops.
“This is a major accomplishment considering that two months ago the IA had no plan of how to request for assets to support the depot for continuous production sustainment,” said Donald Evans, a JBW wheel maintenance advisor.
“At the Wheel Depot, we don’t just fix-up the humvees, we overhaul them inside and out,” said Col. Jasim, the Wheel Depot commander. “We started this two years ago and now we are a team; we work together to make everything go smoothly.”
From the senior leadership all the way down to the lowest ranking wrench turner, everyone knows exactly what their job is and how to do it proficiently.
“First we do a disassembly of the humvee,” said Sgt. Maj. Samar, the senior enlisted main-wheel supervisor. “We also do a complete electrical check before we put the body and chassis together. After reassembly of the humvee we put on the armor, and finally we do a quality and assurance check on every vehicle off the line.”
Quality work and craftsmanship is something everyone takes pride in at the JBW Wheel Depot.
“I check the work of my soldiers and do final quality checks to ensure there is nothing wrong with the humvee,” said Sgt. Qussay, a humvee assembly team leader.
“If I don’t check on my soldiers’ work and then something happens to the humvee, I would blame myself,” he said.
Besides every team member taking pride in their work, they have also been producing quality work at a faster pace than they ever have.
“The soldiers of the Wheel Depot are currently ahead of schedule in their production goals by more than one vehicle a month,” said Evans. “The Iraqis working at their current state is very impressive. They have exceeded the standards and will be a great attribute to the future of the Iraqi army maintenance program.”
The Iraqi soldier-mechanics of the JBW Wheel Depot are currently overhauling 6.3 humvees a month – one more a month than their current-standing quota. At the current rate, the soldiers will overhaul more than 74 humvees this year.