MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Sergeant Thomas G. Ochoa motor transportation maintenance chief, Command Element, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit believes that sometimes the difference between completing and failing a mission is five minutes.
To ensure failure is not an option, Marines with the Command Element, 15th MEU, collaborate on maintaining tactical vehicles like High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle that are essential in making the MEU a force in readiness.
“Preventative maintenance is crucial to a unit,” said Ochoa, 29, from Los Angeles. “Minor problems like rust or loose parts can turn into major problems down the road. Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Ochoa has been working with tactical vehicles for 11 years, and in his time has found himself in situations where a five-minute inspection of the vehicle would have prevented delays in operations caused by mechanical failure.
“The more time you spend with these vehicles the more comfortable you become,” added Ochoa. “That’s why it’s important for Marines to not become complacent. The one time you forget to do a five-minute preinspection could cost you hours later on.”
During the weekly maintenance, Marines inspect every aspect of the tactical vehicles. They begin with a visual inspection of the exterior and work their way down to fluid levels.
“Most of the time you can tell if something’s not right by the way the engine sounds,” said Ochoa.
Marines also inspect the vehicles suspension systems, intake, wheels and brakes for signs of damage.
Any discrepancies found are documented and fixed as soon as possible.
In addition to preventive maintenance, these Marines help reduce costly repairs down the road, saving potentially thousands in replacement parts.
Ochoa explained how replacing a washer that costs 25 cents could go on to potentially save you from replacing a transmission, which could cost thousands of dollars.
“The Marine Corps budget is tightening,” Ochoa said. “We have to make these vehicles last as long as possible.”
Those involved in maintaining the vehicles come from different military occupational specialties, but with the help of strong non-commissioned officers, they look like professionals in action.
Ochoa gives Marines who have minimal to no experience working with HMMWV basic operator knowledge on how to properly maintain the vehicles and conduct minor repairs.
“I’ve been in [the Marine Corps] for five years and spent a fair share of that time around [HMMWV],” said Cpl. Joseph R. Welch, embark specialist, CE, 15th MEU. “Sgt. Ochoa knows his stuff. He went into depth on different mechanical problems that could help us out any situation.”
The preventative maintenance also gives Marines hands-on experience they can apply on their personal vehicles.
“This is my first time working on these [vehicles],” said Pfc. Diego Retamozo, administrative clerk, CE, 15th MEU. “Although I don’t have a car yet, I’ve learned a lot today. All of which will help me buy the right car and maybe save me some money.”
Although many lessons were learned, the main focus surrounding this preventive maintenance is to remain a force in readiness.
“These vehicles transport Marines on various operations,” said Welch, 22, and a Dallas native. “The last thing you want is to have your vehicle break down in a situation that could potentially cost lives.”