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NEWS | May 23, 2022

Active, Guard and Reserve Soldiers attend Fort Custer vehicle recovery course

By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard

AUGUSTA, Mich.—Soldiers assigned to all three components of the Army came together to attend a wheeled vehicle recovery course held at the Regional Training Site-Maintenance (RTS-M) at Fort Custer Training Center. Located at the 7,500-acre Michigan National Guard base, the RTS-M runs approximately 24 classes and averages 396 students per year.

“Today we had an event where vehicles were placed in a pit at several different angles, all requiring recovery,” said Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Strahan, a senior instructor with the RTS-M, 177th Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “We trained students in roll-over recovery, how to get to a disabled vehicle submerged in water or mud and recover it.”

Wheeled vehicle maintainers from the Army Reserve, National Guard and active duty made up the 18-student roster. Soldiers came from National Guard units in Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, and Idaho, while one active duty Soldier flew in from overseas.

“The course has been great,” said Spc. Gavin Wilkinson, stationed in Germany at U.S. Army Europe and Africa, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. “It’s been a great learning experience and this course will allow me to get licensed to operate recovery equipment.”

The course taught more than just how to use wreckers. Students also learned how to gain access to trapped personnel in the vehicle and perform extractions that could occur during catastrophic events.

“In the beginning of this course, students learned how to cut certain types of metals,” said Strahan. “We have a tool that burns at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and it will cut through doors so Soldiers can be extracted quickly and safely.”

One Michigan Soldier, Staff Sgt. Dustin Kelley, 237th Support Battalion, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, attended the course to expand his knowledge in wheeled vehicle maintenance duties and become well-rounded in all aspects of the job.

“I have been part of recovery most of my career and now I am learning the technical aspects, formulas in figuring out how and where to hook vehicles for recovery,” said Kelley. “This is a great course for any Soldier in vehicle maintenance Military Occupational Specialty to take.”

The course goes beyond teaching the physical aspects of the job and includes career and leader development opportunities.

“This course helps with career progression and helps build teamwork etiquette,” said Wilkinson. “You work with Soldiers you’ve never met before under high stress situations and I would recommend this course to any vehicle mechanics.”