Sgt. 1st Class James Wilson, the team maintenance chief for Charlie Company, helps keep the wheels turning on the Army’s armored fighting vehicles. Wilson is deployed to Iraq with the 2-7 Infantry Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart.
“I have a 10-man team,” Wilson said. “I supervise the overall maintenance and readiness for the company.”
He said his primary responsibility is to ensure troops’ safety by making sure MRAPs and MAXpros — Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles — are in top condition.
“I tell my guys that whatever they do to the vehicles, they need to ask themselves would they be comfortable riding in it themselves. I remind them there is still a threat out there,” he said.
Wilson is serving his fourth deployment to Iraq. Much has changed in the way of vehicles since his first deployment in 2003, he said.
“Before, we rode around in soft-skinned Humvees with no door,” the sergeant said. “We had sandbags on the floor to absorb any blasts from IEDs.”
MRAPs are designed to survive improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes, according to defencetalk.com. It was reported in June 2008 that roadside bomb attacks and fatalities were down 90 percent, in part due to the use of MRAPs, according to the website.
“Right now, our company is equipped with Humvees that have the latest FRAG-7 (suspension) upgrades,” Wilson said. “Most MAXpros can accommodate seven soldiers and the RG33, the largest MRAP, can seat 11.”
The MAXpros Wilson’s team maintains weigh in at about 25 tons and the RG33 weighs about 33 tons, Wilson said. These vehicles are also valuable. MRAPs cost about $1 million each and RG33s cost around $1.8 million, he said.
Wilson said he enjoys tinkering with cars when he’s home. His father, now retired from the military and the civil service, rebuilds cars, he said.
“(Dad) likes to keep them around for Sunday drives,” Wilson said.
The sergeant plans to restore his classic car when he redeploys, a 1969 Plymouth roadrunner.
Aside from his love of cars, Wilson enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife Amanda are expecting their second child Sept. 1. Their daughter, Reese, is 6 years old.
“Hopefully, I’ll be home by the due date,” Wilson said.
The sergeant and his family also will prepare for their next assignment to Fort Lee, Va.
“It will be a change,” he said.
This the fifth installment in a series profiling the men and women of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division now deployed to Iraq.