GREENVILLE, S.C. – Army Sgt. Derrick Dewalt, the main wrecker operator for the South Carolina National Guard’s 1055th Transportation Company based in Laurens, S.C., has participated twice in the Operation Palmetto Lightning winter storm response exercise.
“The biggest change in my 15 years is the newer vehicles,” said Dewalt, who has been an operator with the 1055th since 2008.
In last year’s Palmetto Lightning exercise, the Guardsmen used the M984 heavy expanded mobility tactical truck to tow vehicles. Two of the three companies participating in this year’s exercise in Greenville were working with the new medium tactical vehicle.
“This is our first drill with the MTV. The exercise is a chance for our guys to get hands-on learning,” Dewalt said. “The guys are doing pretty good for the first time seeing the truck.”
The two vehicles perform the same function, but their controls are very different, Dewalt said, noting that he’s had to learn the controls on both to teach his soldiers.
“I need to be proficient so I can teach them to be proficient,” he said. “I have to be able to explain it by the technical manual, not just what I think is right.”
Using the right procedures out of the training manual is critical, Dewalt said, but he noted that there are other places to go for help on the MTV.
“The MTV has a chart on the side that shows what hookup to use for each vehicle,” he said. “It makes it easier, not to run to the [manual].”
Dewalt gained much of his experience as a technician at Field Maintenance Shop 2 in Greenville. Every day, he said, he gets to tear things down and put them back together, learning what different parts should look and sound like. This, he explained, helps him have an understanding of what can possibly be wrong with a vehicle.
When it comes to training soldiers, he added, his daily work shapes his philosophy.
“I try to stand back and let them do it. I already do it every day,” he said. “We can go through the manual all day, but if I can’t get them on the truck to get a feel for right or wrong, they’ll never learn.”
That is what makes training events such as Palmetto Lightning so important, Dewalt said.
“My advice to anyone interested in a mechanical field is that they have to be willing to learn, because it changes,” he said. “It doesn’t get easier.” But even with all the changes, he added, he wouldn’t give up his maintenance job for anything.
“I love my job,” he said. “I love mechanical work, and I love teaching new soldiers.”