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Inside the Gates: Maintenance Co. puts skills, speed to the test at JBER

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Emily Landeen - 8:30 PM April 28, 2017

The U.S. Army has plenty of unsung heroes who keep it mission-ready. Among them are the soldiers of the 98th Support Maintenance Company. They keep all of the Army’s vehicles rolling along year-round in Alaska.

Thursday, they combined training with competition, completing their routine maintenance tasks as fast as they could. They raced against the clock, and each other, to see who could come out on top.

“It lets us challenge our soldiers in a way that we normally can’t,” event organizer 2nd Lt. Christopher Sliva said.

Changing the tire on a Humvee or putting on snow chains are routine tasks for the soldiers of the 98th, but in a combat situation, seconds count, making speed and accuracy important. That’s why they practice and test their skills.

“When you give them the hands-on training, they’re going to take full advantage of it and they’re ready to get down and dirty, in the puddles, whether it be jacking up a vehicle to take a tire off, they’re ready to go,” said Sliva.

Spc. Gino Hontanosas and his team changed the tire on a Humvee as their first event in the contest.

“We are auto, so this is our job. So we should win it,” said Hontanosas. “We got a good group going on, so we’ll be able to take them.”

The previous team competed the task in 10 minutes, 50 seconds — a time Hontanosas wanted to beat. Unfortunately, his team struggled with the jack, which slowed them down. Their final time was 17 minutes, 3 seconds.

“We had to raise it up again and then remove the tire from there so yeah we lost pretty bad,” he said. “Hopefully we do better on these other events.”

It’s all part of the competition, said Sliva.

“If we make mistakes, we learn from it, we pick each other up and we learn from motivation,” he said.

Hontanosas and his group ended up coming second out of four teams competing. The winning team received a trophy, a three-day weekend and of course all-important bragging rights.

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