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LAR Marines keep eight-wheeled vehicles in the fight

26 May 2006 | Cpl. Graham A. Paulsgrove

They wear their skinned knuckles and greasy fingernails as badges of honor.  They’re the ones who keep the machinery humming for D Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. 

That’s no easy task for the mechanics, either.  They’re charged with keeping the eight-wheeled vehicles in tip-top shape so they can run nearly 70 miles-per-hour down a highway or blaze their own path across an open desert.  It’s on their shoulders to keep the infantry crews mobile across their area of responsibility that spans nearly 60 kilometers.

“We keep our company rolling,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew P. Cornett, a 22-year-old mechanic from Hunington, Utah.  “Without us, there would be no LAR.  It would just be a standard grunt battalion.”

Each light armored vehicle platoon has two mechanics who go everywhere the vehicles go.  It’s not because the vehicles are notoriously unreliable, but because small problems arise and the vehicles are crucial to the mission.

“If a vehicle is rolling on a mission,  but stops running or refuses to start, it could be a simple problem that is easily fixed, like a circuit breaker,” said Gunnery Sgt. Richard F. Thurston, the company’s maintenance chief.  “We have the mechanics on site to take care of it so platoon can go on with their mission.”

Sometimes, when the mechanics are thrown into a tight spot, they have to use ingenuity and whatever materials they can get their hands on to fix a problem. 

“If something breaks, but we can fix it in the field, we do a quick fix using anything we can get our hands on,” Cornett explained.  “I once used a tire that we found on the side of the road to make a gasket.  It worked for the time being.  But once we got back to base, we corrected it the right way.”

Mechanics in the company perform collateral duties when they are outside the wire, in addition to fixing the vehicles when they don’t work up to specifications. 

It’s not just fixing the eight-wheeled monstrosities.  The mechanics get into the mix with the infantry Marines.  They’re trained to serve as crewmembers on the vehicle – as gunners, vehicle commanders and drivers – according to Cpl. Michael G. Michaud, 24, a mechanic from Presque Isle, Maine.

Still, it’s their determination and knuckle-busting know-how that keeps them in business.

“There is nothing the mechanics can’t do on the vehicles,” said Thurston, a 35-year-old from Durham, Conn.

The mechanics know their job of fixing the vehicles may not be the most glamorous job in the Marine Corps, but it is crucial to the mission at hand.

“Without working vehicles, a mechanized battalion is useless,” said Cornett.