FORT BLISS, Texas - During Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 here, service members encounter austere living conditions, unpredictable weather and the occasional attack by opposing forces. While the Soldiers of 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team always endure, sometimes the harsh elements cause vehicles to malfunction in the worst ways.
When vehicles break down in or out of a training area, Soldiers from Company E and Headquarters and Headquarters Company - both of 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment - are there to bring them back and fix them up.
“All we do is recover [vehicles]. We roll out, grab it and go,” said Sgt. Joshua Tucker, an allied trade specialist. “Anything that breaks down or has to be towed back to the maintenance area is what we take care of.”
The native of Farmington, N.M., added that he has been driving an M88A2 Hercules armored recovery vehicle for more than four years. Since the beginning of NIE, the M88s have been busy retrieving and repairing broken-down vehicles because every vehicle is important to the fight. Once they get the call of a downed vehicle in their vicinity, the team drives their M88s out to where the vehicle is, pick it up and deliver it to a drop point.
“We bring them to the maintenance area to work on them,” said Tucker. “In this area we can fix and repair anything and send it back out to the front lines.”
“The sooner we can recover the vehicle, the sooner we can get them back into the fight,” said Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Sherbert, mechanical maintenance supervisor for HHC, 2nd BCT. The native of Lusby, Md., added that training on Fort Bliss and White Sands, N.M., reminds him of his recent Afghanistan deployment.
“We’re lucky to have terrain like this,” Sherbert said. “It’s almost like being downrange.”
The harsh weather conditions play a major part in vehicles breaking down. Tucker said one issue is sand entering vehicles’ air filters during sand storms, causing constant replacement. Any time his team gets called to recover a vehicle, they know it will be a difficult job if the equipment can’t be self-recovered. Tucker said he is proud of his team and confident of their role during NIE, due in part to the M88’s ability to lift over 35 tons during combat-recovery operations.
“We can tow another M88 with it,” said Tucker. “You can lift or tow any other vehicle out here.”
Another member of the recovery team is Spc. Joesiff Rowan, an M1 Abrams tank system maintainer. The native of Lake Ann, Mich., is assigned to Company E to provide service and recovery for broken down vehicles. For example, it was during an early morning convoy Thursday that an M1 tank was having engine trouble. The recovery team quickly suited up and drove their M88 out to recover the tank. When they arrived to the site the tank crew members were moving in and around the armored vehicle, preparing it to be towed out from behind the sand dunes.
“The tank wasn’t allowing us to travel more than two miles an hour,” said Sgt. Orlando Candelaria, an armor crewman assigned to Company C. “We called the recovery team, so we can take it to our mechanics and have them fix the problem.”
The tank was parked off to the side of a main supply route in White Sands, N.M., when the recovery team arrived, maneuvered the M88 around the sand dunes and placed it in front of the tank. Candelaria and his crew had already attached tow bars to their tank, and proceeded to quickly secure their equipment in and outside of the tank. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the scene, the M88 was pulling the tank out of the sand and onto the road, heading back to the maintenance area to be worked on.
“The recovery team is a fantastic crew. They arrived to get the job done as safely and quickly as possible,” said Candelaria.