CAMP TAJI, Iraq - In early November the Allied Trades section of the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), began to make a copy of the battalion's crest for their dining-in and to celebrate the battalion's birthday.
Maj. Steven Dowgielewicz, the battalion executive officer and an Amsterdam, N.Y., native, said no one in the battalion was to see what was being made until the dining-in.
Sgt. Dale Parrish, of Tonopah, Ariz., and Chief Warrant Officer Raymond Baxter, of Apache Junction, Ariz., got started in the planning phase and after two weeks of sketches, searching for parts, and long debates of how it should be made, the project was started, Baxter said.
"What a challenge," said Baxter.
The Star was made from a sheet of aluminum at least half an inch thick which was the center of the whole project, Baxter explained. It had to be light but strong enough to hold everything together and allow them to weld a shaft on it so it would spin. The Frag 5 shop, which installs upgraded armor kits on Humvees, had aluminum armor plating that was being cut up to scrap. This worked great for the aluminum needed for the project, he said.
The key symbolizes command and control and the double bit alludes to the unit's former supply and service mission and its present maintenance assignment, Baxter said. The keys were made from left over half inch round stock and three-eighths inch thick armor plating from the FRAG 5 shop. The key is three separate pieces welded together. This type of welding was possible only because the 3666th Support Maintenance Company Allied Trades section brought with them an aluminum tungsten inert gas welding machine, Baxter said. This was supplied by the Combined Support Maintenance Shop of Arizona.
The center sun and base were next. The sun, the source of energy, is also a measurement of time, and refers to accomplishment within the time scheduled or allotted, Baxter said. The key and sun together are symbolic of the means to successfully complete difficult tasks. The sun signifies technical knowledge and selection, and the key symbolizes the mechanical skills essential to maintenance. These pieces were cut from an eight foot long, ten inch in diameter, solid aluminum bar found by the 3666th SMC during their first deployment to here. They cut it into smaller pieces and turned it over to the replacing unit when they left. Almost six years later it was found still sitting under the metal racks were they left it, Baxter said.
The banner was next. The wavy blue bars refer to the Rhineland campaign of World War II in which the unit participated as the 541st Quartermaster Battalion, Baxter said. The banner was made from an old pitted sheet of aluminum. Sgt. Thomas Denetdale, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., and Spc. Samuel Valencia, a native of Chandler, Ariz., fabricated a press in order to bend the metal in the same shape for both sides. It took 16 hours to build the press alone, Baxter said.
The paint was also challenging, Baxter said.
"The paint we found in the shops was old and kept spiting the paint onto the crest. All paint was removed from the crest twice," said the laborer, Sgt. Patrick Wylie of Surprise, Ariz. Wylie gave up on Army paint and purchased some from the local hardware store to finish the job. Finally, after 105 hours of sanding, preparation, and painting the crest was painted, Wylie said.
According to Baxter, the motor, switch, and gears were the most challenging parts of the whole thing. The team searched all over Camp Taji for the perfect motor and gear set up with no success. Then they searched for any motor and gear set up that would work.
"I even searched online and eBay," said Baxter.
One day Baxter said he stopped by the 3666th SMC electronics shop to test out a better idea. They used a small, low-voltage motor from a broken printer and with the proper gear setup, they had their final challenge complete.
The vest was mostly made from material brought from Phoenix. In the unit's canvas repair shop, Staff Sgt. George Huerta, a Tempe, Ariz., native, said he worked many evenings to complete a miniature body armor vest for the crest before he went on rest and relaxation leave. His hope was to protect the crest as the military's vest protects its service members, Huerta explained.
A chest made from tongue and grove pine found here was created to transport the crest, Baxter said. The trim was made of mahogany, left over from the replacement deck of a semi trailer. Spc. Justin Wattelet, a Florence, Ariz., native, and Spc. Jordan Blanche, of Phoenix, Ariz., created this to protect the crest in its travels, they said.
"This piece has a lot of thought, time, and physical and mental effort in it, not to mention meaning and symbolism in nearly every piece of it," Baxter explained. "Many after-duty hours were spent to complete it by the deadline. It is an accomplishment the 3666th SMC and its Allied Trades section is proud to present it to the 541st CSSB."
The soldiers put in over 450 hours into the design and fabrication of the spinning crest.