MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
From driving prolonged hours, to changing transmission fluid, without the combined effort of motor transport mechanics and operators, our Corps could neither function nor exist -- period.
They are Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 motor transport and one of many ‘Motor-T’ units, as they are more commonly known, who keep the Corps moving, literally.
MWSS-371 motor transport is responsible for providing the squadrons stationed here with various types of vehicle-support runs, said Staff Sgt. Douglas Vasquez, MWSS-371 motor transport branch chief and native of San Francisco. They provide anything from logistical support, such as ammunition, manpower and food, to equipment recovery, such as picking up broken-down tactical vehicles or aircraft involved in crashes.
Each time a convoy roles out, motor transport drivers are there leading the way, said Vasquez.
However, Motor-T is more than just a group of drivers, he added.
The transport Marines, who are located roughly eight miles southeast of the station at the Cannon Air Defense Complex, also repair the various tactical vehicles the Marine Corps uses during missions to transport supplies and troops, said Sgt. Dan Palmer, MWSS- 371 motor transport maintenance chief.
These Marines are able to work on and repair Humvees, medium tactical vehicles, such as ‘7-tons,’ heavy tactical vehicles, such as Logistical Vehicle Systems (LVS), fueling trucks and dump trucks, and special purpose vehicles such as fire trucks, added the Reading, Calif., native. Basically, everything the drivers use, maintenance repairs.
The mechanics of MWSS-371 are second-echelon qualified, which means they are capable of fixing just about any issues that arise with the vehicles unless it has to do with getting into the motor, transmission or transfer case, said Palmer.
There are third-echelon mechanics here, however, due to mission requirements, they are not always available to deal with those issues, he said.
The Sand Sharks’ role goes further than the station’s squadrons, said Vasquez. It also supports and trains the units who visit the station during Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1’s bi-annual training events, Desert Talon and the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.
During the courses, squadrons from all over the Marine Corps come to Yuma to prepare for deployments and MWSS-371 provides them with extra vehicles, tools and tips to face a combat environment.
“We teach the squadrons the book way to do things, the fast way to do things and the combat way to do things,” said Palmer, commenting on the differences in combat and training operations.
Operating in a combat environment is more challenging and faster paced than in the rear, so Marines need to know what spare parts to take and how to fix common problems quickly, said Palmer.
Palmer said one of the tips they provide incoming squadrons with are how to diagnose and replace the 7-ton’s ball-joints, which hold the tires on the vehicle, that crack and wear out due to Iraq’s climate.
For drivers, it’s important they know everything there is to know about the vehicles they drive, said Vasquez. The life of every Marine within those vehicles depends on the driver’s ability to use them efficiently and adapt to whatever would come their way.
Despite motor transport being divided into two main sections, drivers and mechanics, the Marines know it takes the combined effort of each section to fulfill their missions, but that doesn’t stop them from competing nonetheless.
Palmer said the mechanics and the drivers work together well in the rear but once they deploy, a friendly competition develops.
“We expect the best and nothing less than from each other,” he said.