MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Not meeting objectives on time in combat can cost American’s their lives.
As the only motor transportation mechanic in Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Cpl. Diego Castaneda must ensure an entire battery gets point A to point B without any vehicles breaking down.
“In artillery we always talk about our ability to shoot, move and communicate,” said Capt. William Turner, the commanding officer of Golf Battery. “If I can only do one or two of those things I’m not able to do my job. We rely very heavily on our ability to move.”
Castaneda, a native of Gibbon, Neb., has been turning wrenches long before he joined the Marine Corps.
“Before I was in high school my father always worked on my family’s vehicles,” Castaneda said. “I started hanging around him when he fixed things and learned what I could. Once I got to high school I started to work at a shop for dirt bike racing. I started breaking down engines, putting them back together and eventually built a race car.”
When Castaneda decided he was going to join the Marine Corps, he knew what job he wanted. He waited nearly nine months before a motor transportation mechanic contract opened up.
“I wanted to choose a job where I could do what I loved and take with me once I left the Marine Corps,” Castaneda said.
Castaneda developed a good reputation in the battery after years of consistent work.
“I brag about him quite often because we’re one of the few units in the Marine Corps that consistently makes it to and from Twentynine Palms and (Marine Corps Base) Camp Pendleton without having a vehicle breaking down,” said Turner, a native of Lake Placid, Fla. “It’s all based on Castaneda and the rest of the motor transportation section doing their jobs. They make sure the trucks stay up and working.”
While at the Combat Center during Exercise Desert Scimitar, Golf Battery traveled to multiple training areas, often over rugged terrain. When traveling through harsh conditions, Castaneda has to be ready for any problems that come his way.
At training areas throughout the Combat Center, sharp and jagged rocks could pop a tire at any time and it’s up to Castaneda to keep the convoy moving.
“There have been times where I don’t know how to fix something, but I won’t be scared to call a fellow Marine who does,” Castaneda said. “I’m lucky to have great noncommissioned officers and motor transportation operators ready to help me at any time.”
Castaneda’s hard work and dedication to his job recently paid off when he won a meritorious promotion board and will soon receive the rank of sergeant.
Turner said that Castaneda is more than just proficient at his job. He is an outstanding Marine and it reflects on everyone around him.
Castaneda continues to maintain the battery’s vehicles for upcoming training exercises. He is passionate for his job and plans to continue serving as a Marine mechanic.
“I love turning wrenches and wouldn’t rather be doing anything else,” Castaneda said. “I love being a Marine and it’s the best of both worlds when I can be a mechanic at the same time.”