AUGUSTA, Mich –
The Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) continues to build relevance and readiness not only for Army National Guard Soldiers, but also the Army Reserve and active component. Through the Regional Training Site-Maintenance (RTS-M), 177th Regiment, Regional Training Institute (RTI), located at the Fort Custer Training Center (FCTC), MIARNG instructors are qualifying Soldiers from all Army components in vehicle maintenance career fields, while also enhancing the leadership skills instilled through service in the Armed Forces.
“We provide four courses here at the training center: the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC), wheeled mechanic course, vehicle recovery course and Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH) Maintainer course,” said U.S. Army Capt. John Roland, commander, RTS-M, 177th Regt. RTI, Michigan Army National Guard. “We have students representing all of the Army components coming here from Italy, Germany and the across the United States to earn a new military occupational skill.”
Wheeled vehicle maintainers perform maintenance, repair and recovery operations of Army vehicles that serve in a variety of mission-critical roles including the RTCH Maintainer skill. Fort Custer Training Center’s RTS-M is important to the Army’s maintenance program as there are few RTCH courses, making it extremely difficult to get into a class due to limited availability.
“We’re one of two training centers that teach RTCH and we can teach four students at a time and have ten courses a year,” said Master Sgt. Derren Mazza, chief instructor and noncommissioned officer in charge, RTS-M, RTI. “The other location is an active-component school at Fort Lee, Virginia.”
Wheeled mechanics isn’t all about the mechanics of the engine or vehicle frame. Mechanics are expected to repair automotive electrical systems, wiring harnesses and starting and charging systems as well.
“I just completed teaching electrical systems and the students are now testing their proficiency on what they learned in class,” said Staff Sgt. Taya Insixiengmay, senior instructor, RTS-M, RTI. “This is crawl-walk-run phase training, and right now they are in the run phase, learning how to diagnose and fix electrical issues in wheeled vehicles.”
With 13 training centers available throughout the Army, Michigan’s RTS-M runs approximately 24 classes throughout a year and averages 396 students per year. The RTS-M has added unique training to the wheeled vehicle recovery course which includes land navigation to locate disabled vehicles.
“This gives the Soldiers a chance to use critical thinking skills, come up with a plan, have the right equipment and use their pre-combat checks and inspections to put the equipment together, plan their route and go out and recover the vehicle,” said Mazza. “We also teach RTCH to 91B MOS-qualified Soldiers, which has more hydraulics and electronics training, troubleshooting and more time driving the equipment.”
The instructors are not just limited to Michigan either. Maintenance instructors are needed throughout the Army and MIARNG Soldiers have filled in as instructors elsewhere.
“We sent a mobile training team of two instructors to Germany to teach the 21st Theater Support Command because the demand was so high,” said Mazza. “This helped them get qualified to maintain their equipment, prevent shortages in qualified mechanics and maintain vehicle readiness.”
“We also sent two instructors to Hawaii to teach the ALC and the vehicle recovery course,” said Mazza.
Not everyone starts off as a mechanic. Insixiengmay was able to change her MOS in order to diversify her more than nine-year Army career.
“I started off as Military Police and wanted skills transferable to the civilian world,” said Insixiengmay. “I have been a mechanic for seven years, starting at my unit working on vehicles every drill weekend. Then, during annual training, we would change out a transmission, expanding our mechanical skills.”
Being an instructor can be rewarding as they grow, develop and mentor their students.
“The best moment of being an instructor is having a student come into this course, not knowing anything about mechanics, and seeing them on the last day with the confidence to be able to go home, and transfer that knowledge to be able to work on their own vehicles as well,” said Insixiengmay. “It’s a transferable skill so the things they learn here in class are life skills that will help them throughout the rest of their career.”