FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, Afghanistan – In the sweltering heat of the day at the maintenance lot at Forward Operating Base Payne, Marines wrench on generators and engines, their sweat drips down on the oil-covered rocks and their grunts echo through the bays where they work.
The small group of Marines in the maintenance section of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, has the task of ensuring everything from vehicles to generators and air conditioning units work.
According to Staff Sgt. Brian Lerner, engineer chief, 3rd LAR, his Marines provide general engineer support for all bases in 3rd LAR’s area of operations.
“The hardest part has to be keeping everything running in this kind of heat,” Lerner, from Munster, Ind., said. “A lot of the stuff goes down in the heat. A lot of it is just pretty worn out, but we do a pretty good job of keeping it running.”
The generators, air conditioners and other equipment that are maintained by Lerner and his Marines wear out from sand storms, extreme heat, sun exposure and constant use.
Although the temperatures can be over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, Lerner says his Marines work through the heat to accomplish their mission.
“We try not to let it affect us,” he said. “We just hydrate more. There’s no time to say, ‘Hey, it’s too hot outside,’ because everyone else needs that power.”
Lerner says his favorite part about his job in Afghanistan is the Marines he works with.
“The camaraderie is always good,” Lerner said. “We always laugh and try to make light of the situation no matter how bad it is.”
Lerner says the process of fixing equipment starts when they are notified about a downed machine. They will try to troubleshoot or fix it on sight. If further work is needed, they swap it out with a similar unit. They will bring the broken machine back to their work area, fix it and keep it on standby in case another one breaks.
Another part of 3rd LAR’s maintenance section is the motor transport maintenance section.
“We repair broken trucks. It is our job to repair them in a timely manner,” said Cpl. Derek Varney, motor transport maintenance section chief, 3rd LAR. “The hardest part would be the long hours. Sometimes we get a lot of broken trucks at one time.”
“My favorite part of my job is getting to do what I like to do: turn wrenches,” said Varney, from Edgerton, Wis. “I just love doing it.”
Varney said if his section has the parts to fix a vehicle, they can usually have it repaired within a day. If they don’t have the parts, it can take up to two weeks to get what they need.
“I’m the guy that everyone takes their broken vehicle to,” Varney said. “Just like any mechanic in the States, if your car breaks down, you take it to the dealership. That’s sort of what I do here.”
Varney says one of the biggest challenges for the motor transport maintenance section is working in the heat. They sometimes don’t have enough bays with shade to work under, so in the afternoons, the vehicles can get too hot to touch.
Whether it’s by fixing vehicles or generators, Marines with 3rd LAR’s maintenance section say they will ensure FOB Payne and the other bases in the area will continue to run efficiently.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion is a part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.