844th maintenance works behind scenes of natural disaster
By Sgt. Michael L. Owens
241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP BEAUREGARD, La. - During times of war and natural disasters, fully-operational National Guard equipment is all too often taken for granted.
Approximately 15 Louisiana Army National Guard mechanics from the 844th Engineer Company, headquartered at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, La., continue to work behind the scenes providing maintenance to valuable engineer equipment needed in times of distress.
“We may not be always be visible in the fight, but my mechanics work hard and are the main reason engineer battalions are able to provide humanitarian relief during times such as Hurricane Gustav,” said Staff Sgt. Perry M. Pee of Eros, La.
The motor sergeant with Detachment 2, 844th of the 527th in West Monroe, La., explained that without the unsung heroes of maintenance, the highly-sought after heavy equipment and high water vehicles of engineer units would not be available.
“This equipment is the lifeline in situations of emergency,” the veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom added. “Without reliable, hard-working mechanics, that equipment would be stuck on the side of the road as the storm passes by.”
The hard work that Pee spoke of is something that Pfc. Rebecca L. Crist is very familiar with. One of a small number of female mechanics in the military, Crist joined the National Guard in May of 2007.
“My dad is an active duty mechanic with the 488th Quartermaster Company at Ft. Polk,” the Leesville, La., resident explained. “I have always wanted to be a mechanic because of him. I decided to join the Guard to get the training and go to college as well.”
Even though this five-foot, two-inch blond is a rare sight in the military as a mechanic, she is confident that her male counterparts respect her abilities and prides herself on being able to get along with all of them.
Christ, who plans to attend technical college to receive her license as a diesel mechanic, agrees with Pee that more often than not, the hard, sweaty work of mechanics is usually not noticed. Despite this fact, she explained that she would not trade her job for any other job available in the military.
The satisfaction of being part of the fight, for a mechanic, is knowing that their services and maintenance on engineer vehicles provides valuable humanitarian relief for the residents of Louisiana in the disastrous times caused by Gustav.
The priceless repairs on such equipment as the Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, provides the Engineer Soldiers with the ability to complete such missions as high water rescues. Work on dump trucks, dozers and back hoes provides engineers with the ability to complete debris removal and road clearing missions in the wake of storms such as Katrina and Gustav.
“I like the stories that the Soldiers bring back to the mechanics about helping people on the frontlines,” Crist said. “But I know that my job is just as important.”
Crist, who is currently employed as a temporary technician at the Maneuvers and Training Equipment Site 71 at Ft. Polk, knows that it is her job as a mechanic that keeps the equipment rolling for the 844th.