Friday, August 10, 2007

Power generation experts visit Patrol Base Dragon

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq — In combat, a Soldier is often motivated by the simplest of things: the welfare of his buddy next to him. In a support battalion, this concept is not only inspiration during combat, but the Soldiers’ primary responsibility.
For the Soldiers in the ground support equipment section of Company B, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., that responsibility has driven them to every patrol base and battle position in the brigade’s area of operations.
At each location their mission remains the same – to provide “cold air and cold water” to the war fighters living in these austere and often sweltering facilities.
On Aug. 6, a team of three Soldiers from the section finished their second week at Patrol Base Dragon installing air conditioners, lights, and power sources in new offices and living quarters.
The new rooms were constructed by members of Company F, the forward support company assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT.
The purpose of the new accommodations is to house a large influx of Soldiers from the battalion as they move to the patrol base from their headquarters at Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah later in August.
Although the work is time consuming, it is no problem for the GSE team, which has been doing similar tasks throughout sector for months.
The GSE section is comprised of a total of eight Soldiers with specialties ranging from power generation to air conditioners. Nevertheless, for the highly adaptable team, a Soldier’s specialty does not matter.
“In our section, everyone is cross-trained on everything,” said Spc. Daniel Walter, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., a chemical equipment repairman. “Basically, we learned as we went along. We’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
The team has spent time at every location where the brigade has Soldiers, ensuring that as they operate out of these locations, they have the power they need.
While at Dragon, the team installed circuit breakers and switch boxes with the practiced ease of electricians. But they’re not electricians; they learned on the fly.
“We went in and just started wiring stuff up,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Mesa, a native of Laramie, Wyo., of the team’s work at Combined Outpost Corregidor. “It worked out pretty good.”
Part of the reason it ‘just works out’ is the team’s willingness to learn from contractors who have been hired to help at these locations. Another is their ability to improvise with the equipment they have. At Dragon, that has been a real asset.
The patrol base was built in an old Russian power plant next to the Euphrates River. The structure was abandoned before being completed, making it a treasure trove of unused power generation equipment.
“If we need it, we try to find it,” said Sgt. Wiroja Middlewood, a native of Highland, Calif.
During their stay at Dragon, the team has used switch boxes and other equipment they found in the “junk” piles around the main building.
“Nothing has to be pretty,” explained Walter. “It’s all about functionality.”
Functionality is one thing the GSE team has always been able to provide. The Soldiers who have had the privilege to work with the GSE team speak of them with reverence and at times jokingly refer to them as gods.
Such respect stems from the Soldiers’ ability to give these Soldiers little luxuries from time to time. It may not be much, but a cold bottle of water in an air conditioned room can mean a lot to someone just back from a foot patrol in the desert sun. And that’s the team’s goal.
“We do everything we can to make these guys as comfortable as possible,” said Middlewood.
In a couple of days, the three GSE Soldiers will be moving on to another project elsewhere in the 2nd BCT’s area of operations. But the work at Dragon is not yet complete.
“We could spend a month out here and still not be done,” said Mesa. “There is always something else to do, but it gets to the point where the greatest need has been met.”
The team has reached that point at Dragon. So while the Soldiers move on, they will pass the reins of their task to others in Company F. The men at Dragon will be sad to see them go; nevertheless, they will be comforted by the cool air as they drift to sleep at night.
The GSE team’s mission is far from over. With three months remaining in their deployment, they know their travels will eventually return them to Dragon. But for Soldiers driven to where the need is greatest, there’s never a planned timetable.

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