Mozambique Maintenance Mission

Sergeant Benjamin Cornelius wrote

Note: Sergeant Cornelius is a forward support company mechanic with the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry.

Four Kansas National Guard mechanics from the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry, left for a maintenance mission to Maputo, Mozambique August 31, 2010. Our mission was to team up with Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique drivers for humanitarian mine actions and share knowledge in the area of preventative maintenance. The classes revolved around building trust, strengthening friendships and sharing knowledge and information.

Upon landing in Mozambique, we were welcomed with open arms. Everyone we encountered was friendly and very hospitable. The first night was eye-opening, to say the least. The city had good infrastructure and was very much alive. Upon waking up the next morning we were moved from our hotel to a more secure area, due to rioting in the city. In retrospect, we were never in any real danger from people rioting because of rising bread and gasoline prices. According to the local news, seven people were killed and 12 more were wounded. After three days of rioting, the police successfully calmed the crowd and life went back to normal.

Now our team was able to go to the army base and begin sharing our knowledge of maintenance. Our team of mechanics met the teammates we would be conducting seminars with and realized the drivers were accustomed to preventative maintenance. The first week’s classes covered the thoroughness needed to perform proper preventative maintenance, such as checking for leaks, fluids, lights, and if there was a problem, identify it and do more than just a quick fix.

The biggest problem the drivers ran into wasn’t only the fact that they were not all equally trained, but they also had a lack of equipment and resources to fix the vehicles properly. The FADM was given a lift, a tire balancing machine, five new sets of tools boxes and a tire machine. After these machines were installed by a local tool shop, our mechanic team went over each machine and then used them to further the teams’ skills in preventative maintenance. Once the machines were covered, the remaining three weeks were spent going into each of the vehicle’s basic systems, such as fuel systems, coolant systems and electrical systems, because for good preventative maintenance, there needs to be understanding of the basic workings of the vehicle’s systems. With every class the shared learning experiences grew and our two maintenance teams learned more about each other, each other’s cultures and, most importantly, the knowledge shared between the two teams on the preventative maintenance of vehicles.

This mission was very rewarding and knowledge from both our teams was equally shared. The combined team of mechanics learned much about the culture and had a great feeling of accomplishment seeing the class grow in their understanding of basic principles and preventative maintenance. After 26 days in Maputo, we awarded the class with a certificate of achievement in their understanding of preventative maintenance and were given a warm farewell. The mission was successful and much knowledge was shared between the FADM and the U.S. Army, which built trust, strengthened friendships, and helped drivers build a capacity to keep their vehicles properly maintained for their upcoming humanitarian mine action missions.

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