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Posted: May 12, 2017 12:45 p.m.
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Power generation: Generator repair Soldiers critical to military missions


Spc. Ryan Mcghee, a 91B, wheeled mechanic from HHC, 63rd ESB, cross-trains Pfc. Victoria Otlang, a 91D power generation equipment repairer, on vehicle maintenance Soldiers.

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 At an Army field site, it becomes as inconspicuous as the sounds of trees rustling in the wind or birds chirping.

The hum of power generators may get a bit of attention the moment they become operational, but it is soon forgotten or simply lost in a diverse mix of sounds that eventually become part of the acoustical landscape.

Until it can no longer be heard.

That's when Soldiers carrying the titles of power-generation equipment repairer take center stage. Designated 91D for short, PGERs are integral to the success of an Army that operates outdoors.

"Think about this," said Sgt. Franklyn Richardson, a 91D power generation equipment repairer team chief, vehicle and generator mechanics from Company B,  63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade Theater Tactical, "You're out in the field hundreds of miles away, and you have generator sets that are operating the entire company area. What happens if that generator goes down? What's going to happen?

"You need that 91D to come out and repair that piece of equipment."

Richardson concedes his example is a bit over-the-top, because most units employ backup equipment, but he didn't want to downplay the abilities of those in the Mission Occupation Skill  (profession) or detract from the importance of electricity in the modern Army.

"I tell my Soldiers that units cannot operate without them in the field," said Company B First Sgt. Tony Damond. "With all the technology we have today, you need power -- you need power to run this equipment all the way down to the lights in your tents and a place to plug up your coffee pot and your space heater."

As the 35th Signal Brigade Soldiers continued training to become experts in their field and masters of the fundamentals during a field training exercise from May 1-10 at Fort Gordon. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Fort Bragg, N.C.  Sgt. Richardson ensures his team learn everything from electrical circuitry, small and large-capacity generator operation to power grid management and maintenance.

The training gives the company the opportunity to test communication systems and connectivity between battalions as the operators maintain proficiency on these systems," Damond said.  "The training exercise also provides leaders a chance to enhance and perfect their capabilities."

The field environment not only allowed the battalion to execute communication skills, but also allowed maintenance Soldiers to troubleshoot any problems with vehicles and generators.

Pfc. Victoria Otlang, a 91D, with was dispatched to work and conduct maintenance on the generators.

"My mission is to ensure power generation equipment is mission capable at all times," Otlang said. "I do enjoy my job and enjoying the training that I am receiving while in the field.”

Spc. Ryan Mcghee, a 91B, wheeled mechanic from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd ESB, believes in the process. 

“Cross-training Soldiers from different positions improves the unit, and allows Soldiers real-world application and experience to decrease the occurrence of communication outages," Mcghee said.

McGhee noted he felt that the field exercise was important to maintaining the readiness of his company. He said it allowed his Company Soldiers to hone in on network communication skills as well as low density, non-signal military occupational specialties, and come together and work as one team.

Maintaining equipment is a high priority of any Signal unit. Defective parts must be replaced quickly to make sure communication and vehicle systems function at a high level.

The 63rd ESB Co. B motor maintenance team ensured vehicles and power generation equipment were maintained during the exercise.   They have one of the most visible jobs as far as maintenance is concerned most everything we need from a power source perspective runs off military generators. For that reason, our generator mechanics are one of our biggest combat multipliers.

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