31st MEU mechanics keep green machine afloat
By Lance Cpl. Carl King, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
CHONBURI, Thailand -- The United States Marine Corps is known for its amphibious nature, which is supported in part by the Corps’ amphibious vehicles. These vehicles have helped the Marines achieve many victories, and with this legacy comes the responsibility of maintaining the vehicles that allow for amphibious movement. The Marine Corps’ AAV-P7/A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicle repair technicians are some of the most highly trained mechanics in the military, tasked with keeping the vehicles up and running.
“AAV Mechanics are in charge of all the major maintenance on the AAVs,” said Cpl. Shane Briggs, an AAV crew chief with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “There are 5 echelons of maintenance and [drivers] can handle the first echelon of maintenance, but anything over the first echelon, that’s where the mechanics step in.”
The AAV mechanics go to their military occupational school in Camp Pendleton, California, where they are trained for almost four months on the basic automotive hull duties, maintenance and repair procedures of the AAV family. AAV mechanics are trained in every aspect of working on AAVs, from fixing small ventilation problems with the fans to installing new engines.
“There is always work to do, there are always repairs that need to be done, from replacing engines to little things like replacing individual bolts,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Evers, the AAV maintenance chief for the 31st MEU. “When there is no work to do, that means I and my mechanics have done their job and everything is running like it is supposed to.”
When an AAV issue arises, it takes a certain understanding of the vehicle to get the job done.
“For us technicians, it’s not just as simple as opening up a book and replacing a part. Its learning how the systems work and learning the bugs that create headaches,” said Evers a native of Fairfax, Virginia.
The mechanics skill and readiness at a moment’s notice to fix any problem that occurs gives the operators a sense of relief when something goes wrong.
“Because of the mechanics, I know not to worry too much when something on the AAV isn’t functioning correctly because I know they will fix the problem,” said Briggs, a native of Frankfort, New York.
Being an AAV mechanic is no walk in the park. The AAV repairman work day and night on the vehicles, but understand their work is vital to mission accomplishment.
“Anybody can go to the school and learn how to drive the vehicle and shoot the weapons, but learning how to troubleshoot and actually finding discrepancies take a lot of time and patience, but its great work I like what I do,” said Lance Cpl. Derick Garcia, a Houston native and AAV repair technician with Co. A, BLT 1st Bn. 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “I just try to fix everything on the AAV to the best of my ability.”