Pfc. Marques Downing thrives on a good challenge, ambiguity, problem solving and constant change. He spent most of the last two years working in Information Technology (IT) field and had his head deep in the latest courses on computer networks and systems.
“It can be a lucrative career that offers flexibility, but there’s a lot of certificates and classes,” Downing said. “New technology and software are constantly coming out and you have to learn it.”
But Information Technology wasn’t necessarily something he loved, and Downing admits last year he realized he wanted a more hand-on job that offered the same level of conundrums and provocation.
“I’m loving every second of my new job,” he said. “I like getting my hands dirty.”
On any given morning, there’s a line of mission-critical vehicles to test, maintain or perform emergency repairs.
“We’re like the D.C. National Guard’s own mechanic shop. We’re here to make sure people can get from point A to point B,” Downing said.
Downing is one of dozens of wheeled vehicle mechanics (91B) who keep tactical vehicles operational at the District of Columbia National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
“Our mission is to provide readily, fully mission-capable vehicles to the D.C. National Guard,” said CW3 Courtney Britton, Supervisory Surface Maintenance Specialist, OIC for the DCARNG Surface Equipment Maintenance Facilities (SEMF). “Whatever mission is tasked to the D.C. National Guard – and no matter where it is, we have the vehicle to support it.”
CW3 Britton leads the operation of four maintenance shops, while CW2 John Eldridge ensures mechanics are technically sound in maintenance and recovery to fulfill mission requirements.
“Medium Tactical Vehicles (MTV), Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTV), High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) – there’s different types of vehicles for different operations,” said Eldridge. “The vehicles belong to the units who needs them, and we are responsible for the maintenance. So, we’re constantly coordinating with units and honing our skills.”
Eldridge stresses expertise and skill aren’t the only traits that keep the SEMF thriving, he values people within the organization.
“If I likened it like a vehicle, bad parts create bad output, but good parts create good output,” Eldridge said. “We’ve got good people working in here.”
At a time when many drivers are doing Preventative Maintenance checkups, Britton adds preventative maintenance for the D.C. National Guard motor pool is not reserved for a particular season but lasts throughout the year.
“The maintenance community doesn’t have a slow period,” he said. “While requests for vehicles for Annual Training peak during the summer months, Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) are still done every month by individual units 100% on every vehicle in stock. Regardless of the type of equipment it’s checked from top to bottom for faults to avoid delaying the proper operation of the vehicle. We call it Fully Mission Capable or FMC."
One of the mechanics keeping some of the vehicles fully mission capable for the last three months is Downing. He’s one of the newest wheeled vehicle mechanics, but he likes the responsibility knowing that his technical skill can support mission-ready personnel in training, war, or national emergency.
“Every week there’s something new to learn, or get my hands on to figure out,” Downing said.