Soldiers have variety of jobs overseas

Published 8:24 pm Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spc. Amy Fry, helps driver Spc. Nicholas Mitteco while loading a pallet onto a truck Wednesday for a training exercise. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series on deployed Minnesota National Guard soldiers by the Herald’s Kelli Lageson reporting from Kuwait. More Deployed in Kuwait.

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Austin’s 1135th Combat Support Company has a plethora of jobs for soldiers, including the operation of all available vehicles.

Spc. Nicholas Mitteco, of Coon Rapids, checks his side mirror for directions from Spc. Amy Fry Wednesday at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

The job of a support company is to have as many different kinds of supporting jobs for the line infantry as possible, including mechanics of all kinds of vehicles, cooks, fuelers, drivers and more. Because not all of those jobs are needed at Camp Buehring, some soldiers are trained in other specialties.

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Spcs. Amy Fry, 24, and Angela Eagan, 23, are both drivers for the 1135th and enjoy working together. Fry, of Grand Meadow, said being a driver is much different from her civilian life. Eagan, of Ham Lake, agreed and said neither expected to be doing what they’re doing.

“It’s a good experience,” Eagan said. “People don’t expect it so it’s fun to talk about.”

Fry said that for the most part in Kuwait they’ve been training for missions and getting the soldiers all licensed on all the vehicles. Spc. Brianna Buchan, 23, of Austin, has been trained to be a cook, but is currently training to learn how to operate all the vehicles.

The military has its own set of hand signals for backing up trucks.

“They keep us busy, which is better than sitting around with nothing to do,” Buchan said.

They’ve also been trained to be Combat Lifesavers, which is a non-medic soldier with moderate emergency skills. Another job in the company is the fueler, which Spc. Jonathan Sundquist, 28, of Winona, does.

“I typically would fuel convoys on a convoy stop,” Sundquist said.

He’d also set up fuel points for incoming and outgoing convoys. He’s trained in Hazmat safety, which would help in the event that fluid is spilled.

“There are procedures to clean it up,” Sundquist said.

Because there are contractors who take care of the fueling needs, he’s been on truck driving missions around Kuwait as needed. He’s helped transport gear from site to site, and has seen Camp Virigina, Camp Arifjan and Camp LSA, as well as a Kuwaiti naval base.

“I’ve taken photos when I’m authorized,” Sundquist said.

Spc. Amy Fry keeps a lookout Wednesday while driver Spc. Nicholas Mitteco picks up a pallet during a training exercise.

On Wednesday, some of the soldiers of the 1135th were training on a vehicle that has the capability of picking up and putting down a long, flat pallet. Sgt. Joshua Vandekamp, originally of Hollandale, is the squad leader in charge of training and said there are many hours of training and tests before soldiers can operate certain special vehicles.

Because there are so many jobs in the 1135th, some of the soldiers who were drivers, mechanics or machine gunners were attached to other units.

“We have a little bit of everything,” Eagan said. “They did take some of our guys to line infantry.”

Herald reporter Kelli Lageson will bring you in-depth coverage from the ground in Kuwait from now through Nov. 15. Go to Deployed in Kuwait for stories, photos, video and more!