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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Positive Side

OK, yesterday was a little negative, so I want to write something a little more positive. Not everything is bad here in Iowa.

The shop we're working in is great. The whole National Guard center up here looks brand new - which is unusual because National Guard facilities are often pretty run-down. This one is great. Clean, new, nice. Stuff in the shop works, and the lighting is very good. Apparently we're in a former tank shop, so it's got plenty of room and big air. We can get three 5-ton trucks with trailers in each bay at a time, if we offset them a little from side to side. We have two bays available to us, so that's 6 trucks and 6 trailers we can work on at a time. That's almost unheard of - at least in my experience. By "big air" I mean the air compressors put out huge volumes of air, which is great for running big impact wrenches. Not that we've needed it, but it's impressive.

At Ft. Bragg I had a shop with a lube pit, which would have been really cool. Down in the pit there were separate hoses for grease, motor oil, gear oil, anti-freeze, and transmission fluid. That would have made services very easy, if the system worked. You could top up low fluids or completely replace fluids by just picking the right hose and pressing a trigger. Unfortunately, the system didn't work and hadn't worked as long as anyone there could remember. Here in Iowa at a National Guard unit, they have a similar lube system, and it works. No pit, but that's not really necessary with these trucks - a short mechanic like myself can duck-walk under an FMTV truck. I haven't pulled the hoses out to the trucks yet, but it's so easy to just fill an oil can or other container with what I need and pour it in that I'd rather do that than try to route hoses across the bays. We've had a LOT of trucks coming in low on power steering fluid and coolant. At this shop, we can take care of business very easily. At Ft. Bliss (El Paso), we had to hump a 5-gallon can of oil out to the lot and pour oil with a funnel. So, there's one way that Iowa is better than El Paso.

The soldiers (National Guard full-time technicians) are also great. They've been very helpful, especially with moving trucks to the shop from the holding lot and taking them back to the staging area where they'll be issued to units. In El Paso, we didn't even see soldiers, but that was an active duty post which is a little different. They've loaned us tools and helped in just about any possible way they could and really made us feel at home. One of the NCOs turned me onto a website his son uses to download games when I told him that the game I brought with me won't work on this computer.

So, the eight hours a day I spend working here are very pleasant. Since that's what we're here for, I guess that counts for a lot. Today we also had the bonus of finding a really great place for lunch - Cactus Bob's Bar-b-cue. The brisket sandwich basket was very tasty.

Part of what we do requires driving every single truck for at least 10 miles and making sure everything works properly. That's probably my favorite part of the job. At most Guard units, the road tests involve driving on local roads. It's a nice way to see at least some of the local area. Here we drive out through an area of new subdivisions scattered across farm land which is apparently being sold off gradually to developers. It's a very nice little drive.

I was going to go into some detail about road testing, but I got bored just reading what I wrote. I can't imagine anyone else would want to read it, so I'll just close this one out by saying that it's not all bad here. It's great to have a job that I enjoy.

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