Hands On Training Program Is A Win-Win Situation

Story by SFC Clinton Wood on 09/21/2017
FORT DRUM, New York This U.S. Army Reserve unit based near here has found a way to increase its maintenance and supply readiness while at the same time allowing its Soldiers to become proficient in their Mechanical Maintenance Fields.

Since January, the 479th Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, has been paired with the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC) Equipment Concentration Site (ECS) on Fort Drum for the Hands on Training (HOT) Program. The program provides Soldiers a chance to work on a variety of track and wheeled vehicles in the ECS shop.

"It is a great opportunity for these Soldiers and a great opportunity for the supporting shop to help them get their numbers up," said Sgt. 1st Class Erik Taylor, 366th Engineer Company, 479th Eng. Bn., 411th Eng. Bde. "It helps our higher commands ensure everything is up to standard and that is the goal here."

Taylor was the noncommissioned officer in charge for the HOT Program from Aug. 5-17. The more than 20 Soldiers worked a normal eight-hour day shift but stayed overnight in the field training areas and slept in tents as every other Soldier did who underwent the Battalion's Extended Combat Training.

One of the tasks the Soldiers complete is annual service on a variety of vehicles. This includes changing oil, fuel, transmission and hydraulic filters, checking lights and repacking the bearings with grease inside the wheels.

Taylor noted that this program also assists Soldiers in learning their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) but also cross training them in other MOSs.

"They are able to function in a field environment in a better aspect," explained Taylor.

He continued with this scenario. A generator goes down while a unit is deployed overseas. The unit does not have a generator repairman but a wheeled vehicle repairman who participated in a HOT Program and learned how to fix generators.

For Sgt. William Moss with the Battalion's Forward Support Company, he sees firsthand how this program helps all parties involved. He is a Military Technician at the ECS during the week and said the program definitely helps the ECS with its backlog.

"I have heard nothing but good things, said Moss. "They like the training because they actually get to do their job and come here and train. They even do a little bit of cross training on other equipment."

Case in point: Pfc. Cory Bassett, a server and bartender who chose the Mechanical Maintenance Field to gain knowledge and experience. He is a track vehicle repairman and has been in America's Army Reserve for only two-and-a-half years.

"Doing this HOT mission enables me to actually engage in my job and work on vehicles and also cross train as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and become a more fluid mechanic," said Bassett as he was using a torque wrench to tighten lug nuts on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck A4 M983A4 Light Equipment Transporter in one of the shop's bays.

Lyndon Tuttle, the manager of the ECS, said the program is a win-win and the Battalion is "on board."

"It's working out great," said Tuttle. "They've been right on task."

He noted that Soldiers with the Automated Logistical Specialist are also studying the new Global Combat Support System-Army in classes.

He added that the program is a recruitment tool for his ECS. He noted that MILTEC positions are hard to fill because the federal employee must stay in the U.S. Army Reserve in order to stay in the MILTEC Program.
Tuttle noted that the 479th Eng. Bn., is the only unit so far participating in HOTs.

"They are set up for success if they get mobilized," pointed out Tuttle.

The mobilizing of thousands of troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom for the past several years was the reason that the HOT Program was not a priority, said Master Sgt. Danny Putnam of the TEC's Maintenance Division.

"Now our units are deploying with their own equipment verse having theater-provided equipment," noted Putnam.

Taylor said that he personally feels this program should be implemented U.S. Army Reserve-wide especially if the units are near a maintenance shop so they can bring their equipment there.

Even if a unit's equipment is not stored at an ECS, it should develop a plan in order to move that equipment to an ECS.

"It is just a great opportunity overall for everybody," remarked Taylor.

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