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Vehicle maintenance team keeps BDF, US engineers on track

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Petrena, New Horizons vehicle maintenance craftsman, repairs a mortar mixer engine for use on a construction site April 21, 2014, at Belize Defense Force Price Barracks in Ladyville, Belize. BDF and U.S. service members are working together to build five school buildings and one medical facility throughout Belize during New Horizons Belize 2014. New Horizons is an annual event coordinated between the U.S. and the host nation to provide mutual training opportunities. Vehicle maintainers are imperative to the successful completion of construction projects as they ensure equipment and vehicles are operating during the duration of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Petrena, New Horizons vehicle maintenance craftsman, repairs a mortar mixer engine for use on a construction site April 21, 2014, at Belize Defense Force Price Barracks in Ladyville, Belize. BDF and U.S. service members are working together to build five school buildings and one medical facility throughout Belize during New Horizons Belize 2014. New Horizons is an annual event coordinated between the U.S. and the host nation to provide mutual training opportunities. Vehicle maintainers are imperative to the successful completion of construction projects as they ensure equipment and vehicles are operating during the duration of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar/Released)

BELIZE CITY, Belize -- A team of five U.S. Air Force vehicle maintainers are working diligently to ensure Belize Defence Force and U.S. military engineers have the working machinery they need to complete construction projects on schedule.

Wear and tear happens, especially in the fast-paced construction environment seen on New Horizons Belize 2014 sites. Vehicle maintenance is imperative to the successful completion of four school facility and one medical facility additions being constructed throughout Belize as part of New Horizons, a multifaceted exercise geared toward providing mutual medical and engineering training opportunities for BDF, Canadian and U.S. military members.

Approximately four weeks into the exercise, the maintainers have already applied their mechanical skills to government trucks, forklifts and mortar mixers necessary for day-to-day construction activities at the sites.

While the team has been occupied repairing various equipment items, their work started long before any U.S. equipment required maintenance on government soil.

"We ran through every piece of equipment and fixed everything possible to avoid anything breaking while we're here," said Staff Sgt. Brian Petrena, New Horizons vehicle maintenance craftsman, "but eventually it happens. It's just the nature of the job.

"If we weren't here, these military vehicles and engines might just stay broken," he said.

As time also costs money, and there is little time to special order parts from manufacturing companies and wait for the items to ship, the vehicle maintenance team is receiving new and valuable learning opportunities as they repair and maintain parts they would typically replace. One example is in the mending of a wire harness for a variable reach forklift. The fix requires connecting wires and soldering them together.

"I haven't soldered much before, only a couple of times, so I'm going to get a lot of practice on this wire harness," explained Senior Airman Joseph Ellis, New Horizons vehicle maintainer.

"We're also having to fix some things manually, whereas back at home station, we would have specialized equipment for some of the maintenance we do," added Staff Sgt. Smette Pompfilius, vehicle maintainer. "If we weren't able to fix equipment for the (engineers at the construction sites) they would have to plan to bring a lot more equipment here."

An additional learning experience for the vehicle maintenance team is understanding the coordination and cooperation required amongst the various U.S. military branches, as well as each specialized unit under each branch.

"We work a lot closer with other career fields in this type of environment. We don't always get to see what everyone else is doing at the sites or on the staff," Petrena said. "We get to see how everything comes together here."


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