BRADSHAW FIELD TRAINING AREA, Northern Territory, Australia -- Less than 30 highly-trained and specialized Marines keep more than 800 wheels turning in support of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit operations when deployed.
The Marines of the maintenance section, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, are working long days and late nights to keep pace with the required maintenance that comes with supporting the battalion-sized element currently executing Exercise Koolendong 13 here, Sept. 1.
Twenty-seven Marines have the combined skills to repair every ground vehicle and major piece of equipment the 31st MEU employs, including M23 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (7-tons); M998 High Mobility, Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); Light Armored Vehicle 25’s; Internally Transportable Vehicles; Amphibious Assault Vehicle P7’s; M777A2 Howitzers; generators; radios and more.
“Maintenance is a critical capability,” said Lt. Col. Omar J. Randall, the 38-year-old commanding officer of CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Bronx, N.Y. “Their ability to return equipment back to action translates directly into combat power.”
From minor adjustments to the complete overhaul of an engine, the maintenance section contains the “know-how” to complete any repair. They also deploy with a full complement of equipment including a crane, welder’s torches, tank bars, a general mechanics toolbox and more.
While their knowledge and equipment makes them an impressive element, it is their self-reliance that makes the maintenance Marines such a valuable asset to the continuously forward-deployed 31st MEU. The ground movement to the training area and uninterrupted operations upon arrival serve as a proof source.
“We travelled more than 300 miles inland from the coast to get here which put a lot of wear and tear on the vehicles in the convoy,” said Cpl. Jose L. Polanco, a 25-year-old heavy equipment mechanic with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Truth or Consequences, N.M. “But we have a lot of highly-trained Marine mechanics and the right parts to keep this MEU rolling.”
Stocks of engines, transmissions, starters, alternators, wiring and other replacement parts ensures the maintenance section has everything on hand to complete the job. The Marines apply the knowledge, tools and parts required for mission success without any outside assistance.
In the two days since the arrival of the convoy, the maintenance section has already completed an engine replacement on a HMMWV, a steering gear replacement on a 7-ton and multiple vehicle recoveries. With the training exercise just beginning, the Marines look forward to more challenges.
“We got here and immediately went to work,” said Lance Cpl. Chase J. Dusenbury, an 18-year-old motor transportation mechanic with CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Lexington, S.C. “As the maintenance requests come in, we’re going to be cranking them out as fast as they come in.”
The 31st MEU has just begun the week-long, live-fire Exercise Koolendong 13. The exercise demonstrates the operational reach of the 31st MEU and why it is the force of choice for the Asia-Pacific region. Also participating in the exercise is the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and soldiers of the 5th Royal Australian Regiment. The 31st MEU brings what it needs to sustain itself to accomplish the mission or to pave the way for follow-on forces. The size and composition of the 31st MEU makes it well suited for amphibious operations, which includes raids, assaults, evacuations and humanitarian assistance operations.