Missouri National Guard Sgt. Frank Goben, left, and Staff Sgt. Adam Newingham remove a Buffalo Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle wheel from a mud pit during a wheeled vehicle recovery specialist course at Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
By Matthew J. Wilson
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard's Regional Training Site-Maintenance recently saw 17 individuals graduate from its wheeled vehicle recovery specialist course.
Throughout the 11-day course, conducted at Fort Leonard Wood, students learned to operate, service and use recovery vehicles and equipment, as well as procedures used in rigging, recovering and the towing of wheeled vehicles.
The class consisted of 11 Missouri Guardsmen, three active-duty Soldiers, two Guardsmen from outside the state and one civilian.
"This has been a real good class with a nice mix of active duty, civilians and Guardsmen," said Warrant Officer Candidate Scott Mobus, the primary instructor for the course.
The 16 military students each held the wheeled vehicle mechanic military occupational specialty, known as 91B, and through completion of the course gained the H8 additional skill identifier. Military students in the course ranged in rank from private to sergeant first class.
The key to success in the course, Mobus said, is to follow the eight steps of recovery that includes surveying the situation, the proper way to attach chains and cables to the vehicle being recovered and safety checks. Students also have to be familiar with the weights of the different types of Army vehicles and perform physics calculations to determine what force and angles are needed to tow or move those vehicles.
Mobus said the advantage of having recovery qualified Soldiers in the field is that they'll not only know how to keep themselves and their fellow troops safe during the recovery process, but it also saves money.
"You want to be able to recover the equipment without damaging it any worse than it already is and not hurting anyone," said Mobus, who lives in Bolivar. "The Army has gotten very strict about having H8 qualified Soldiers because too many people were getting hurt and equipment was getting damaged."
In the final few days of the course, students were able to demonstrate what they had learned so far at the Marine Corps Detachment wheeled vehicle recovery range on post.
Students used M984 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck Wreckers to properly lift and tow several wheeled military vehicles, to include a Humvee, and Buffalo and Cougar mine resistant ambush protected vehicles.
The vehicles were then placed in a pit of muddy water. Students had to perform a reconnaissance of these muddy pits as they searched for loose equipment or pieces that may have been thrown from the vehicle. They then searched the vehicle for wrecker chain attachment points and potential hazards, like improvised explosive devices.
Mobus said the worst-case scenario involving the mud teaches the students to think outside the box.
"They have to check and make sure the rigging is right and execute the mission safely," Mobus said.
Sgt. Frank Goben, a student from the 1139th Military Police Company, in Harrisonville, said working in the mud was a good way to apply what the class had learned.
"Working in the mud was a lot of fun," he said. "You get to get in there, get your hands dirty and get some hands-on training the proper way. It was pretty physical - clearing lose vehicle debris and dragging chains and cables through the mud."
Another student, Spc. David Williams, of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 229th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, in Jefferson City, also enjoyed working in the mud.
"I'm more of a hand-on learner anyway" he said. "We got so much better out there. Our hookups, the amount of time just dropped tremendously between the first day we did them to the last day. It was challenging, but pretty fun at the same time."
Williams, who lives in California, added that working with the equipment also helped develop team skills.
"It helped everybody work together," he said. "The group I was with was great to work with. There weren't too many people trying to lead and everybody knew their roles."
Williams said he wanted to complete the course because it makes him more versatile.
"I thought it would help my career out and this gives me that much more of an edge," he said. "Now I'm qualified in vehicle recovery when before I came to this class I was only a mechanic."
Goben, who lives in Freeman, said he also wanted to be more of an asset, especially to his job during the week as a shop foreman at the Missouri Guard's Field Maintenance Shop No. 12.
"Right now, our only wrecker-qualified guy is deployed," he said. "At this course, I've learned how to properly recover vehicles that have rolled over or are mired."
Goben said he's deployed to Iraq three times - the first two on active duty - and there have been situations where he's wished he would have had this training.
"We had to recover vehicles out of ravines," Goben said.
Back then, Goben said he was part of the recovery process, but had to rely on a senior noncommissioned officer to talk him through the process. With this training, he can now rely on his own knowledge base.
"Learning to do it the right way is nice," he said. "We've had pretty good instructors. They've taught us by the book."
Mobus said the course is quite popular. During the fiscal year, only two classes had originally been scheduled, but this class was the fifth one he's instructed.
"It's always full," Mobus said.
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Missouri National Guard Spc. David Williams attaches a chain to a Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle during a wheeled vehicle recovery specialist course at Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)