Getting hands dirty: U.S., Jamaican mechanics collaborate on ground vehicles

  • Published
  • By Capt. Renee Lee
  • 113th Wing Public Affairs
"Are you a pilot?"

This is a common question asked of Airmen across the Air Force.

What many people unfamiliar with the Air Force may not realize is that while the percentage of Airmen who are pilots is low, the rest of the service supports the Air Force's mission to fly, fight and win. In fact, the daily lives and responsibilities of Airmen in the Total Force are mission-critical to the overarching mission.

Imagine an Air Force where crew chiefs lacked vehicles to reach their aircraft, or alert missions without trucks. In the Army, imagine a scenario where soldiers in combat need supplies but airdrops are not viable options so they turn to Army vehicles.

Enter the critical role of vehicle maintenance and mechanics.

Vehicle maintenance is "very important for the movement of any unit that is operational, whether for a wartime or civilian mission," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Courtney Britton, maintenance manager of the 542nd maintenance company, D.C. National Guard. "Our vehicles must be wartime mission-capable at all times, even during peacetime."

This was the theme of the second day of the weeklong subject matter expert exchange between the D.C. National Guard and the Jamaica Defence Force. On the first day of the exchange, the JDF oriented the D.C. National Guard airmen and soldiers with their mission and vehicles. Today, the U.S. team members rolled up their sleeves and joined their JDF counterparts to fix vehicles.

Soon after the joint team began collaborating, it quickly became clear to the D.C. National Guard team what they would take away from this exchange - the JDF's creative approach to problems and solutions despite their limited resources.

While working together, the U.S. and Jamaican troops discovered an issue with one of the JDF's Landrovers upon a thorough inspection of the vehicle. Although the JDF placed an order to replace a part to fix the problem, the JDF vehicle mechanics quickly overcame the obstacle and using their existing tools and resources, innovatively constructed a solution.

The D.C. Capital Guardians were impressed.

"They consistently perform quality work and still get the job done despite limited resources," said Master Sgt. Linroy Davis, vehicle maintenance superintendent, 113th Wing of the D.C. Air National Guard, who also participated in this exchange last year. "What we take away is learning how they analyze problems and still fix them. We may not always have our equipment such as when we're downrange or if it's broken."

In the U.S. military, "many things are readily available and we can be dependent on technology," said Britton. "Our JDF counterparts are more limited with the equipment they have, so they rely on their technical expertise and personal experience."

"Learning the JDF's different approaches to solving problems is teaching me a lot about thinking outside the box," said Sgt. Girard King, vehicle mechanic, 273rd Military Police Co. "This is very important for logistics. Because a unit may need supplies and airlift may not be an option, it's important for our vehicles to be ready at all times."

In addition to maintaining a mission-capable status, the JDF vehicle mechanics emphasized the safety of vehicle maintenance.

"If our vehicles aren't mission-capable, we may cause injuries and accidents," said JDF Sgt. Beadle C., vehicle mechanic. "We inspect all parts of our vehicles to ensure they are ready to bring our troops for whatever mission. We prioritize mission capability and the safety of our troops."

The U.S. and Jamaican teams of vehicle maintenance experts will spend the rest of the week exchanging best practices under the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program. Since 1999, the D.C. National Guard and JDF have built on their partnership on a range of expert areas such as vehicle maintenance and medicine.

"Without partnership, we not as effective," said Beadle C., who attended the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course in Maryland in 2004. "It's important to have partnerships to learn from other cultures. When I was in Haiti, I worked alongside British, Canadian and American troops, and it's important that we all support the same goal."

"We know that everyone comes from different environments," said Sgt. Rodgers G., a JDF vehicle mechanic who also has experience studying alongside U.S. and foreign military colleagues. "Partnership is a two-way street...we learn from you, you learn from us. If we work together, we can share knowledge and experience, and potentially solve many problems."