25 July 2007

AT07-Day 6

Trucks in the field

I didn’t post yesterday, so this post is about the day before yesterday. Fortunately for me, we didn’t do much, so it should be easy to remember.

We went out into the field “today” (I’m having trouble with tenses now that I’m not posting the day of—help?) for the first time. The company we are supporting (who are themselves supporting the Cavalry (note Cavalry, not Calvary; Calvary was where Jesus died)) has established a TOC in the training area in South Post. So our mission changed from hanging out in a parking lot waiting for missions to hanging out in a tree-lined clearing (pictured) waiting for missions.

I may have to retract what I said earlier about going to the field needlessly. It’s nice out here. Pretty. Quiet, as always, except when a vehicle is going by. Nice as it is to go back to a bed and the option of a shower every night, I wouldn’t cry too hard if we had to stay in tents out here.

We didn’t do too much today; the only mission I remember was to replace the water in the water buffalo. Apparently someone was under the impression that it had to be emptied and refilled every day, which I thought wasteful and silly. Fortunately, that got straightened out, but not before we did it the first day.

We had a bit of a problem with it; we couldn't open the drain plug on the back of the thing; the nut was bigger than any wrench we could find, including the extra-large crescent wrench every truck is supposed to carry. So we propped open the spigots and drove down the road, not sure how long it would take to drain at that rate; the thing was half full. Well, when we got to the water point, we found the ACTUAL drain plug UNDERNEATH the tank, which of course makes much more sense. This one was small enough for our wrench, so we didn't have to stand at the water point for half an hour waiting for it to drain. I wonder what the thing on the back is for? Bakos climbed up on the tank to direct the 4-inch hose into the hole. I turned on the pump, and Bakos only sprayed himself once. We had a moment of panic when he told me to turn off the pump. I did, but the water kept going. It got all the way up the neck before stopping. We were afraid we were going to have a mess on our hands.

Since that’s the most interesting thing that happened to me all day, I have room to hold forth on the trucks we're driving (apparently MMS messages have a character limit, which is why yesterday’s post is broken into two parts). The manual is marked “approved for public release,” so I won't feel bad mentioning some technical details (when did THAT happen? Last I remember, truck TMs were marked with a destruction notice to avoid falling into enemy hands. Now they read “distribution unlimited” instead. I was all ready to say I was NOT giving technical details).

The trucks we’re driving this camp have been loaned to us from the 1544th Trans Co. out of Paris, Ill. They got them from the old artillery units that had switched to infantry and didn't need them anymore, to replace the nice new trucks that they took to Iraq a few years ago but some other unit (probably a deploying one) needed them more. The 1544th got nice new FMTVs to replace their old trucks which were of the exact same type as the ones they have now, but were not the actual same trucks; I don’t know where those went. No, the trucks the artillery got were the ones the 1244th TC gave up when they transitioned to Det. 1, 1344th, which used a different type of truck. The 1244th got these trucks when they (we) deployed to Saudi/Iraq for Desert Storm.

So are we getting this? I'm currently driving trucks (called M923A2s) on loan to the 1344th (part of which was formerly the 1244th) that I drove in Desert Storm that were then given to the artillery, then to the 1544th to replace their FMTVs, which replaced THEIR M923A2s that THEY took to Desert Storm. Yeesh.

Anyway, they’re pretty nice trucks, at least when well maintained, which these aren’t, really. The arty beat the hell out of them. They’re not as nice as the FMTVs, which have air conditioning and such, but they're a lot nicer than the deuce-and-a-halfs they replaced. The picture for today shows one of them: our desert tan one in the background (they got painted before we deployed in 1990). The other two are also 5-ton cargos, but different; the one in the foreground is an older model (M923—no “A”, which means revision or update, number) of the same truck, with an identical body, different engine, and old-style tires The one in the middle is an older type, an 800-series Vietnam-era truck with roughly the same capabilities as the others.

They’re 5-ton trucks, which means that that’s their hauling capacity over cross-country terrain. Their carrying capacity over roads is double that. They’re cargo trucks, which means that they’re general-purpose; they can haul ammo, troops, or general goods (there’s another phrase for that I can’t remember), but not containers or (without special equipment) fuel or (non-bottled) water. They've got tarps that can be put on or off by a couple of troops in five or so minutes, and a pintle for towing small trailers (like a water buffalo) or disabled trucks, and on-the-fly three-axle drive.

The version we have (A2) has three major differences from older models: A more powerful, turbocharged, Cummings engine; large, single tires (older trucks had smaller duals on the rear two axles); and CTIS. The Central Tire Inflation System is what made these trucks unique when they were new. What it means is that you can change the tire pressure from the cab. This is much more useful than it may sound. On the highway, you gain nothing from it. But off-road or on gravel or dirt roads, it’s great. Not only is the ride smoother, but you gain a lot more traction, especially in sand. I challenge anyone to get a fully functional, unloaded 923A2 stuck where the tires can get purchase. I don’t think it can be done. Put that b!@*# into 6x6 low transfer Emergency mode and she’ll pull out of almost anything. Unfortunately, the CTIS has a lot of fragile parts and electronics, and breaks easily. And since it isn’t necessary for driving, the mechanics are never in a rush to get it fixed. But it’s awesome when it works. It even has a Run Flat mode where it will constantly keep pressure in any tire that has a leak.

Well, that’s all for now. Toodles until tomorrow.