CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq --
An array of rusty parts and tools littered the tops of several workbenches as the smell of oil and gasoline permeated the stale air. It was a scene reminiscent of any good old-fashioned typical American high school auto shop class; teacher fervently pacing between students included.
Except this teacher had a look that could be considered anything but typical. He wore a camouflage uniform caked with dirt, sweat and grime. And at only 23 years of age, he instructed with a seasoned confidence way beyond his years. That being a feat in itself considering his students didn’t even speak his language.
Sgt. Michael S. Blount, the quality control non-commissioned officer in charge with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, taught several periods of instruction during the humvee mechanics course aboard Camp Fallujah, Iraq, to a group of Iraqi Policeman from the Fallujah area. The new course is designed to certify IP’s as basic humvee mechanics.
“The humvee mechanics course is based simply on the fact IP’s need to know how to fix the vehicles they’re driving so we don’t have to,” the Vancouver, Wash., native explained. “By teaching these guys, they can go out and teach other policemen at their stations. It’ll really help alleviate some of the strain we face from fixing both their humvees and ours. And it’s just one step closer to us getting out of here,” he added.
The course is four days long and covers the basic maintenance skills necessary to keep the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles running.
“We start the first half of everyday inside the classroom where we go over PowerPoint slides in both English and Arabic.” Blount said. “There are two interpreters working with us too to help ease the language barrier.”
After the classroom portions, the IPs move into the makeshift garage and apply the lessons learned to an actual humvee. The curriculum focuses on tire repair, the brake systems, fuel and exhaust systems, and basic electrical troubleshooting.
But the pace of the material covered is different for each class because each group is unique in how skilled the students are, Blount said.
“There’re actually two guys that used to be mechanics before the war in this group,” he said. “They’re pretty knowledgeable and basically take charge during the practical application portions.”
On the second day of class, one of the former mechanic IP’s crawled out from under the vehicle, wiped the sweat from his forehead and jokingly asked, through an interpreter, that if he disassembled and then reassembled the entire engine, could he just get his graduation certificate right then and there.
A few of the Marines admitted they had actually learned a thing or two from the Iraqi’s during the course.
“Most of these guys have never had access to the tools we do, so I’ve seen some pretty ingenious ways of removing parts,” said Cpl Derek J. Wasson, a floor chief with Maintenance Co., CLB-1. “But there are a lot of safety issues I’ve noticed too. We had two guys show up on the first day wearing flip flops, so I decided to teach a little bit about shop safety during my instructions.”
Maintenance Co. also hosts courses to certify IPs as generator mechanics and M16A2 service rifle armorers.
“We’ve taken on an entirely different role out here this time,” Wasson said about his second deployment to Iraq. “It’s about training and mentoring the Iraqis now. I mean it’s only a matter of time before we leave and it’s our goal to make sure they can stand up on their own when we do.”