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    On Two Wheels in Ghazni

    GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN

    04.24.2010

    Story by Sgt. John Young 

    86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (MTN)

    GHAZNI, Afghanistan -- When the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) took over at a little known Forward Operating Base in Ghazni called Vulcan, they did not know what they would find. For tucked in the back of the compound in a forgotten storage bunker was just the type of challenge one Soldier would need to help pass the time and deal with the thought of being so far from home. Behind all the surplus parts was an early 1970s type motorcycle. It would soon become his mission to fix and ride.

    Spc. Skyler W. Genest lives in Burlington, Vt., and is a long time motorcycle enthusiast. He is stationed in Ghazni, Afghanistan, as a military policeman with Detachment One, attached to the 1/172nd Cavalry Squadron out of Northfield Vermont. When he is not working for the Army, he is employed by the University of Vermont in its police department, and in the summer is part of their motorcycle patrol unit. So when he saw the project bike in front of him, he saw the challenge and could not wait to start on it.

    "After about two weeks on the base we went exploring," said Genest. "In the back of one of the bunkers we found this bike. We gathered everything up and brought it back to our room and started to look at it to see if we could get it to run. I know a little bit about motorcycles, so on our down time we started to take it apart to see if we could get it back together. It was in decent shape, the frame was all there. It was not real pretty but everything we needed to run it was there, so we started working on it," Genest said.

    Getting it running has not been without its challenges. Many parts were unusable due to the age of the bike, but its neglect did not stop Genest. He compiled a list of parts that he needed, and with that list, he went looking for parts while on local missions.

    "Some of the things we found were a throttle cable and some fuel line on our first mission out," Genest said. That is the goal, mission by mission we would find pieces and parts and what we needed to keep it running. We would enlist the help of the interpreters when we went out, and they would find the parts we needed from the local bike shop owners, and they would hook us up with the parts we needed."

    With one quick look at the bike, the gas tank stands out as a little bit of GI ingenuity. Attached where the original gas tank used to be located is a .50-caliber machine gun ammunition box. The box is fitted and sealed with a fuel control valve, complete with a fuel filter sealed to prevent any leakage.

    "The fuel tank really stands out," said Genest. "When we got it, we saw the original tank was completely rusted out on the inside. So our innovative idea was to take an ammo can and put it where the rusted tank was. We just have to scrounge to get anything to keep this running."

    When you ask Genest about what type of bike it is, his experience and qualifications as a bike enthusiast quickly become evident. He will let you know every part and style of his bike and what parts don't belong to it originally. Someone before him must have been just as resourceful as he was.

    "It started life out as a Honda," said Genest. "It is a 125n, a early 1970's model, but it has some aftermarket parts on it. The engine has been replaced and the exhaust is not original, but it is the typical bike for this area. It has been beaten up, but these things are pretty incredible. They can take a beating and they still run."

    Many Soldiers find outlets to vent in their stressful lives here in Afghanistan. Some workout, some find solace in computer games and some find hobbies to keep them busy. Genest is the first one to admit this is his outlet and it keeps him grounded during this long deployment.

    "I can't wait to get home to the base," said Genest. "This project is the first thing I think about, because we are bringing parts home from the mission, and most of the time we have parts. I can't wait until I have a down day so I can throw the parts on the bike to get it running. It also reminds me of home back in Vermont. I like to work on small engines. Hopefully when it is running it will help to relive some stress as I run it around the base."

    When the bike is fixed and the next group comes to take over FOB Vulcan, Genest has no plans on trying to bring it back to Vermont. Even with all the hard work, he plans on leaving it here for the next unit to enjoy, and maybe it will find a place in the day-to-day operations on the FOB.

    "We are going to leave it for the next unit or give it to the interpreters," said Genest. "We are not going to try to bring this thing home. The bike belongs in this country. I am sure somebody will get some enjoyment out of it when we leave. But we have pictures of the whole process so we will have that to remember it by. Plus, when we are done we are thinking of making a trailer for it so we can use it around the base to transport items."

    Transfers of command are always filled with challenges and unfinished projects. For one Soldier this unfinished project has become his little part of home. No matter what comes his way, Genest knows that waiting for him back at Forward Operating Base Vulcan is his bike. With hard work and a small group of dedicated friends, he hopes to one day have the joy of the wind in his face in a land so far away from home.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.24.2010
    Date Posted: 04.24.2010 02:02
    Story ID: 48616
    Location: GHAZNI, AF 

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    On Two Wheels in Ghazni