Vehicle maintainers keep Michigan National Guard rolling | Article

Vehicle maintainers keep Michigan National Guard rolling | Article
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Vehicle maintainers keep Michigan National Guard rolling

US Army Sgt. Michael Hamel, vehicle mechanic with the Unit Training Equipment Site (UTES) and a member of the 156th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard conducts maintenance on a Humvee, at the UTES facility, Fort Custer Training Center, Augusta, Michigan, Dec. 16, 2021. Soldiers assigned to UTES are trained in a wide variety of maintenance to include generators, heavy equipment, and light and heavy wheeled mechanics.
(Photo Credit: Master Sgt. David Eichaker)


AUGUSTA, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard’s Unit Training Equipment Site, or UTES, literally keeps the Michigan Army National Guard rolling.

“Our mission is to train Soldiers on wheeled vehicle maintenance, supporting units throughout Michigan,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Rondo, the superintendent for UTES. “We keep the equipment serviced so units are capable of performing their mission needs, whether deploying overseas or transporting equipment to and from local bases.”

The UTES’ 27 mechanics support multiple sites in Michigan, including the National All Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

“The way we support NADWC events such as Northern Strike is by maintaining their equipment throughout the year, enabling them to conduct the training in Grayling,” said Rondo. “The UTES facility is utilized by units on their drill weekends leading up to Northern Strike, preparing the equipment and training the mechanics in a more controlled environment for maintenance.”

Rondo said in 2021 the UTES serviced more than 1,300 vehicles from 20 Michigan units, several out-of-state units, a few Marine Corps units, and Air National Guard equipment.

The facility’s focus at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta is maintaining diesel-powered vehicles throughout the Army’s inventory.

“Our mechanics have in-depth mechanical abilities, and through training and experience, we take them to the next level to be able to do engine swaps and repairs and transmission replacements,” said Rondo.

For some, working as a vehicle maintainer in the Michigan Army National Guard has fulfilled personal interests and careers.

“When I was in high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do exactly,” said Spc. Charles Barrons, 1463rd Transportation Company and a UTES mechanic. “I have always been into cars and mechanical things, taking things apart and putting them back together. I thought if I joined the Guard as a mechanic, I will be learning mechanical skills through the military plus all the other opportunities that come up.”

UTES also modernizes tactical wheeled vehicles and heavy equipment transporters, including communication technology. These vehicles typically transport military personnel, ammunition, water, fuel and other supplies.

Through the Army’s Wheeled Maintenance Training Department, Soldiers learn to work on brakes, diesel engines, electrical systems and hydraulics.

“We do a lot of annual services such as oil changes and tire replacements,” said Rondo. “We go through the equipment to make sure they are completely safe and conduct in-depth preventative maintenance checks and services.”

Barrons said mechanics learn a lot during that routine maintenance.

“You’re looking at every piece of the truck, every function and every piece of equipment to make sure everything is working right,” he said. “When something is not, you get to troubleshoot to find out what needs to be done to fix it.”

Though the focus is on wheeled vehicles, there are 15 military occupational specialty jobs in the maintenance shop.

“We have a lot of generator mechanics, light and heavy wheeled mechanics, heavy equipment repair, and air conditioning mechanics,” said Rondo. “We even have heavy equipment operators because we have the need to transport equipment to and from locations.”

Michigan National Guard Soldiers assigned to UTES have trained, combat-capable forces that support federal and civil missions.

“This particular facility supported missions that went to Wisconsin this past year, conducting recovery operations,” said Rondo. “Our Soldiers were on call and drove from here to pick up equipment to bring back here for repair.”

Other Soldiers used their skills overseas.

“I have been deployed three different times to three different countries (Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan), and each one was different,” Barrons said.

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