Saving lives

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Scott Maples
  • 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
I had the opportunity to go on a deployment to Sheik Isa Airbase, Bahrain, filling a transient alert slot. I had no idea what was in store for me.

When I finally arrived, we figured out we were going to stay at a naval station next to the beach. I noticed they were staging C-17 aircraft at the base. Me being a C-130 guy, I knew I was going to have to learn a new airframe.

I was curious to know what they were doing and what the mission entailed. Then, Col. Keith Moncrief, our detachment commander, explained the mission.

He got up and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the business of saving lives. Our mission is to ship MATV's throughout different parts of the area of responsibility."

I was confused as to what a MATV was.

He went on to explain, "The army in the past has used beefed up Hummers to protect themselves against enemy attacks. So far there have been multiple fatalities because these vehicles just aren't able to withstand current enemy firepower. The MATV was made to combat this. To date, no one has lost a life to an enemy attack in these superior vehicles. They have been hit with many rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, but the armor plating has withstood all of it, protecting the precious lives of our American soldiers."

After hearing the colonel speak, I was sold. If you haven't seen one of these things, you are missing out. They weigh in at 25,000 pounds and cost $500,000.

From those statistics, we learned two things. One, they are so heavy and so thick that no enemy can take it out with their hand carried weapons. I have driven these things and you truly do feel invincible inside. It's no wonder we have never lost a life in one. Two, the military is willing to pay thousands of dollars as long as it is protecting the men and women who serve our country. These machines are worth every penny. I understood what Moncrief meant when he said, "we are in the business of saving lives."

One day, as we sent a C-17 to deliver a load of "beasts," and it had a malfunction with an engine sensor. It was sent back to get the problem fixed before continuing. Upon landing, the weight was too great and stress load on the tires too strong. When it hit the deck, we heard two loud pops and learned that two tires on the same strut blew.

We quickly did everything we could to get the MATV's off and loaded on a different aircraft so they would make it on time to their destination.

It was interesting to me that once our commander found this out, he immediately got dressed and left his tent to ensure the process went smoothly so the mission could make it. It was interesting to see how he wasn't the only one focused on accomplishing the mission. Everyone got involved. We were able to get those vehicles airborne and back on their way.

In the end, it was awesome to see the completion of the mission. In total, we shipped over 2,500 MATV's throughout the AOR. We made a big difference. It's a great feeling to know you truly had saved lives.

The Army and other special forces that use these, I know for a fact, were grateful for their brand new vehicles. I take one lesson away from all of this. It doesn't matter what we do, in the end, we are saving lives. That's what motivates me to do my job, especially on those cold rainy days. Everything we do makes a difference.

For 3,000 days now we have transported troops and cargo. We have participated in many other missions as well. Call it what you may, in the end, we all have been saving lives and will continue to do so -- because that truly is our business, and business is good.