WASHINGTON - Pfc. Marques Downing thrives on a good challenge, problem-solving and constant change. He spent most of the past two years working in information technology, studying the latest computer networks and systems courses.
“It can be a lucrative career that offers flexibility, but there’s a lot of certificates and classes,” Downing said. “New technology and software are constantly coming out and you have to learn it.”
Last year, Downing realized he wanted a more hands-on job.
“I’m loving every second of my new job,” he said. “I like getting my hands dirty.”
Downing is one of dozens of wheeled vehicle mechanics who keep tactical vehicles operational at the District of Columbia National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
“We’re like the D.C. National Guard’s own mechanic shop. We’re here to make sure people can get from point A to point B,” Downing said.
On any given morning, there is a line of mission-critical vehicles to test, maintain or repair.
“Our mission is to provide readily, fully mission-capable vehicles to the D.C. National Guard,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Courtney Britton, supervisory surface maintenance specialist, officer in charge for the DCARNG Surface Equipment Maintenance Facilities. “Whatever mission is tasked to the D.C. National Guard, and no matter where it is, we have the vehicle to support it.”
Britton leads the operation of four maintenance shops, while Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Eldridge ensures mechanics are technically sound in maintenance and recovery to fulfill mission requirements.
“Medium Tactical Vehicles, Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles — there’s different types of vehicles for different operations,” Eldridge said. “The vehicles belong to the units ... and we are responsible for the maintenance. So, we’re constantly coordinating with units and honing our skills.”
Eldridge stresses expertise and skill aren’t the only traits that keep the operation thriving; he values people in the organization.
“If I likened it like a vehicle, bad parts create bad output, but good parts create good output,” CW2 Eldridge said. “We’ve got good people working in here.”
Britton says preventative maintenance for the D.C. National Guard motor pool is not reserved for a particular season but lasts throughout the year.
“The maintenance community doesn’t have a slow period,” he said. “While requests for vehicles for annual training peak during the summer months, preventative maintenance checks and services are still done every month by individual units on every vehicle in stock.
One of the mechanics helping to keep vehicles fully mission-capable for the past three months is Downing, one of the newest wheeled vehicle mechanics. He likes the responsibility of knowing he can support mission-ready personnel in training, war or national emergency.
“Every week, there’s something new to learn or get my hands on to figure out,” Downing said.