Soldiers saving Soldiers lives: Hollywood producers
and book publishers around the world dedicate volumes to combat
arms Soldiers on the battlefield going beyond the call of
duty. However, another warrior—little known to others
but in high demand on today’s battlefield—is out
there working to save the lives of their comrades in arms.
You see them everyday; yet, you may not recognize the contributions
they are making to the safety and welfare of Soldiers in the
battlespace. They are the allied trades technicians and mechanics.
Allied trades technicians and mechanics take an innovative
approach to producing lifesaving products and enhancements.
These unsung heroes use existing materials and products in
innovative ways to give the Soldier on patrol that needed
edge against the enemy. From fabricating new tools for explosive
ordnance disposal (EOD) robots to refining older designs for
high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) improvised
explosive device (IED) rollers, today’s allied trades
mechanics are essential combat multipliers in Operation Iraqi
and built the Hobart scoop (at left) to be
used on the front of the robot for digging
and for moving things remotely.
In garrison, the Army takes the approach that the time
and resources required to fabricate or repair a particular
are not economical; everything is ordered or purchased
with a credit card. Thus, our garrison allied trades
and mechanics are relegated to routine repair activities,
extracting bolts and occasionally plasma cutting [cutting
steel and other metals using a plasma torch] or spot welding.
They have little opportunity to be innovative and demonstrate
In a deployed environment, welders and machinists become
a central component of the maintenance company’s capability
and flexibility. Who else in the battlespace could take a
squad leader’s concept of adding ballistic glass to
the M1114 up-armored HMMWV’s gunner’s turret to
turn it into “Pope’s Glass?” [“Pope’s
Glass” is the term used by Soldiers to describe the
2-inch ballistic glass shield installed around the gunner’s
turret because it reminds them of the bulletproof glass
box that the Pope travels in.] Who else could fabricate
tool from stock
aluminum for a field service representative?
The U.S. industrial base does not deploy with the Army. The
allied trades mechanics must take concepts from the whiteboard
and turn them into lifesaving products or needed tools. These
tools are often duplicated by the industrial base and sold
back to the Army. Allied trades mechanics are not concerned
with trying to patent their ideas or products. They are generally
too busy finishing the mission and getting to the next job.
They want to get their products out to the field and in use.
A perfect example of a tool fabricated by allied trades
mechanics is the HMMWV IED roller that two noncommissioned
from the 3d Forward Support Battalion (FSB) Service and
Recovery (S&R) Section designed and built. Pressure-activated IEDs
were common within the 3d FSB’s battlespace, and
something was needed to activate them before a vehicle
Thus was born the design for the HMMWV IED roller. Two
rotations later, that same design is still being passed
around and built.
Each unit is putting its own spin on it, but the basic
design is still being used. The allied trades community
working groups to pass designs and techniques around the
force. With the original IED roller design still making
allied trades technicians from the 512th Maintenance Company
improved the original design and spread their improvements
across the 15th Sustainment Brigade.
ordnance disposal Soldiers attached an entrenching
tool to the front of a robot to enable them
to dig remotely. The inset shows a robot with
a Hobart scoop attached.
The machinists and welders not only improve on previous designs;
they also think outside the box and create products
from scratch. When an S&R section earns a reputation around camp as
outside-the-box thinkers and quality builders, work comes
their way. An EOD team leader brought a challenge to the 98th
Maintenance Company. The EOD team was using an entrenching
tool jury-rigged to the front of their robot to dig and move
objects. One of the maintenance company’s machinists
developed a lightweight, multifunctional tool that increased
the functionality of the EOD robot, called the Hobart
scoop (named after the sergeant who designed it).
That EOD team became true believers and realized what
a combat multiplier the allied trades mechanics are
environment. Bringing two blown-up robot bodies to the
98th Maintenance Company’s S&R Section, the
EOD knew they were taking a long shot. Their command
the team that no replacement robots were available and
that new robot bodies from the continental United States
take a long time to arrive. The 98th Maintenance Company
team took the two broken robot bodies and rebuilt them
functional piece. That type of work would never have
been done, or even attempted, in a garrison environment.
In our Army’s push toward modularity and transformation,
every section and military occupational specialty (MOS)
is being evaluated to determine its future viability.
decision to downsize or combine MOSs and sections were
to be based on garrison workload and production, the
community would be a ripe target. Yet, when viewed through
the deployment prism, that target disappears. As the
15th Sustainment Brigade learned in Iraq, allied trades
play an invaluable part in the field.
Major Thomas J. Cunningham was the Maintenance Officer for the 15th Sustainment
Brigade at Forward Operating Base Taji, Iraq. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer
Basic Course, the Ordnance Officer Transition Course, the Combined Logistics
Officers Advanced Course, the Support Operations Course, and the Army Command
and General Staff College.