Cannon air mechanic keeps MRAPs rolling

USAF photo: Master Sgt. Trish Bunting Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Rodriguez, 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 3 vehicle mechanic, performs maintenance on an MRAP on Dec. 11. Five vehicle maintainers are attached to the unit to keep these life-saving vehicles operational. Rodriguez is deployed from the 551st Special Operations Squadron at Cannon and hails from San Antonio, Texas.

By Senior Airman Jarrod R. Chavana

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Five Air Force vehicle maintainers assigned to Detachment 3 of the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here are working to keep security forces personnel on the road, but they aren’t working on patrol cars.

The maintainers work on more than 60 vehicles, the most challenging being the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle on which they have had no prior training.

“My airmen are not sent to technical schools to learn how to work on MRAPs. They’re learning how to fix these vehicles while deployed using technical manuals and field representatives,” said Master Sgt. Michael Bacu, who is deployed from Dover Air Force Base, Del. “This is a great opportunity for our mechanics to get ahead on a new vehicle because this is a new skill set for us,” said the Pittsburgh native.

Field service representative Brandon Cox, B.A.E. Systems international technical specialist, helps the maintainers learn these new skills.

“I’ve been assisting them in repairing the Caiman MRAP by either showing them or providing the knowledge necessary to work on this vehicle,” he said. “These guys have been great; they’ve picked up the material quickly.”

MRAPs are designed to survive blasts from improvised explosive devices and armor-piercing IEDs, contributing to the vehicle’s high demand for its life-saving capabilities.

From a mechanics’ aspect, it can be a challenge working on these vehicles because it can take two or three hours to get past the armor plating, according to San Antonio native Staff Sgt. Jose Rodriguez, who is deployed from the 551st Special Operations Squadron at Cannon.

His co-worker, Senior Airman Charles Harris, who is deployed from Dover AFB, Del., agrees.

“Sometimes I get frustrated working on the up-armored vehicles, but I take pride in knowing at the end of the day, I am possibly saving someone’s life,” Harris said. “Even though we are not directly out there fighting or patrolling, we are ensuring that our names are on those vehicles and that we did the best job we could do.”