Sunday, July 08, 2007

BSB Soldiers repair a Russian relic

By 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Lopez
210th BSB

One of the American Soldier’s greatest strengths is his ability to improvise in the face of adversity - so much so, that when given a broken down bucket loader, two Army mechanics went to extraordinary efforts to bring it back to life.
In May, Sgt. Matthew Deveikis of Merrimac, Mass., and Spc. Jeremiah Becker, of Lebanon, Pa. - both mechanics in Company B, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., - embarked on what became a month-long project, refurbishing an old bucket loader abandoned along with the construction of a Russian power plant on the banks of Iraq’s Euphrates River.
The vehicle was scavenged from what is now Patrol Base Dragon and evacuated to Forward Operating Base Striker by Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, and salvaged in order to speed efforts to improve the unit’s many battle positions and patrol bases in sector.
Although the repaired bucket loader will be used in a manner identical to that of similar Army equipment owned by engineer units, restoration of the Russian antique was an entirely different matter.
When working with unfamiliar equipment, mechanics rely on the guidance of technical manuals to minimize the process of trial and error in identifying faults and to accelerate the speed of repairs. But in the case of the bucket loader, there was no manual to fall back on.
Left with nothing but their own ingenuity and resourcefulness, Deveikis and Becker began their project by dismantling and cleaning the engine in order to determine which systems were broken.
“An engine is pretty much an engine,” Deveikis said when asked how this tactic worked.
After identifying the major deficiencies in the engine, the team admitted that the remainder of the project was a little more challenging. The Army is equipped with a wide assortment of parts available for order, but engine components for a fifty-year-old Russian bucket loader are not among them.
With no other choice, the team scavenged most of the components the bucket loader required from parts they kept on hand for other vehicles.
“The whole thing was a little unorthodox,” the team joked, describing the Humvee muffler used to repair the vehicle’s exhaust system.
Not everything could be scavenged. There was no suitable substitute water pump, which cools the engine. Instead, Soldiers found a local national man who was able to take the broken part and return it several weeks later in perfect working order.
Despite the difficulties it presented, the project was a welcome change of pace for the Soldiers.
“It’s nice to have something that makes you think,” said Deveikis.
On July 4, the refurbished bucket loader was picked up from the motor pool, and began its own mission renovating patrol bases and improving quality of life for Soldiers in the brigade’s area of operations.
Having the project completed was a good boost for the Soldiers, they said. “It was a good project,” said Becker. “Definitely something out of the ordinary.”
But for the Providers of the 210th BSB, extraordinary missions are just what they do.

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