Well-oiled, ready: Marines with LAR company maintain LAVs
By Cpl. Joshua Brown, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
USS KEARSARGE, Arabian Gulf --
A light armored vehicle is running and a crewman notices oil leaking from the engine. He notifies an LAV mechanic and the process begins.
LAV mechanics, or repairmen, are trained in field expedient and permanent repairs of LAVs. They fix small and minute parts, as well as the largest parts of the vehicle, including the engine and transmission.
A single repairman is responsible for four vehicles and ensures that they’re operable for any mission the crew gets tasked with.
Repairmen with Light Armored Reconnaissance Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a repair of an LAV engine after oil was seen leaking from the power pack assembly aboard the USS Kearsarge, Dec. 4.
The power pack assembly is comprised of the engine, transmission and turbo.
“We removed the power pack assembly to make repairs to a damaged oil pan,” said Gunnery Sgt. Donald Z. Wessman, the maintenance chief for the company. “On ship it’s less common for us to do engine work since we are constrained on space, resources and time to execute this kind of maintenance.”
Engine work is not an uncommon duty for repairmen. They are required to service LAV engines once a year to maintain a vehicle’s readiness and functionality, and conduct preventative maintenance once every three months.
LAV repair work is labor intensive and hands-on.
“You have to be familiar with the vehicle inside and out,” said Cpl. Dillon G. Gilmore, an LAV repairman with the company. “You’re the only repairman for four vehicles during an operation, so it’s important that you understand as much as you can and know how to keep the vehicle running in a wide range of situations.”
LAVs are capable of maneuvering through diverse terrains and traversing various obstacles. A repairman may have to fix a vehicle in numerous settings and environments during day or night, so knowledge and experience are vital to this occupation.
“They look at situations from every angle in order to make a repair,” said Wessman. “They plan and execute all the repairs themselves, and I add onto those plans with things they might not have considered based on my experiences.”
Wessman provides leadership and experience to the repairmen. He’s completed multiple deployments and has worked with LAVs his entire career, said Wessman.
“It never gets boring,” said Gilmore. “We’re always busy because there’s always something we can fix.”
The LAVs they repair don’t always have shared technology or needs. The vehicles’ time in service vary greatly, some having been built in the late 80’s and others are only a few years old. This adds to the challenge and variety the mechanics encounter, said Wessman.
The job presents other challenges as well.
“You’re always getting dirty,” said Gilmore. “You have to get up-close and personal with the vehicle and dirt, oil and fluids that build up; you just get covered in all sorts of grease.”
Those repairing the engine demonstrated this aspect of the occupation.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” said Gilmore. “You get dirty, but you know you’ve worked hard.”
The work is supported by unique tools and equipment the repairmen can utilize to complete a task. Other variants of the LAV can even be used to assist in the maintenance.
“We used a Light Armored Vehicle-Recovery, which is a variant of the LAV that has a mounted crane and houses generators and repair support equipment, to remove and re-insert the power pack assembly,” said Wessman.
The LAV-R crew acts in support of the company, providing repair support during operations. Wessman said it’s his favorite vehicle.
Repairmen conducting maintenance on the engine expressed some of their favorite aspects of the occupation.
“There are two things I find really rewarding about being a repairman,” said Gilmore. “One is when you find a new solution or figure out the solution to problem that no one else can; and another is when you work all night on a vehicle, and afterwards that feeling I get when someone goes to start it and it fires-up perfectly.”
When a repair requires an extended period of time to fix, the repairmen will often times keep working until the vehicle is operable, said Gilmore.
“I have a strong group of guys,” said Wessman. “They listen, they’re eager to learn and work hard, and I can trust them to get the job done. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
The team of repairmen was able to successfully fix the leaking oil pan, attach it back to the engine and place the power pack assembly back into the LAV.
“It’s an important job,” said Gilmore. “The fun comes from knowing that if we weren’t here, the LAVs wouldn’t be operable; and the other half of the fun comes from working with the other mechanics. We work hard, we work long hours, but we have a good time.”