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Kyle Matthews, a civilian motor technician mechanic with the Exercise Support Division, tests the turret of an MRAP All-terrain vehicle, Wednesday in an ESD garage. The civilian to Marine ratio is about 19-5.

Photo by Pfc. Sarah Anderson

Civilian-heavy team keeps Marines training

2 Jul 2010 | Pfc. Sarah Anderson

Marine units from across the world travel to train in the sands of Twentynine Palms before heading to Afghanistan and other foreign lands. They come from all walks of life and fill every job the Corps has to offer. The one thing they all have in common – they all, in part owe their successful training cycle to the small cadre of civilians and Marines at the Exercise Support Division who keep their vehicles and equipment running.

The ESD’s mission is vital to training units and is no easy task, said Steve C. Johnson, the deputy director of ESD.

“We are continuing to provide a service to the exercise forces in that we are issuing them mission capable safe and reliable equipment,” Johnson said. “We also serve as a maintenance backup during the conduct of their training, as well as a valid source of supply on a very large scale.”

“If you can imagine 2,000 principle end items being issued out for each Mohave Viper iteration,” he added. “When it does come back in the barn, it all comes back at once. We essentially have two-to-three weeks max to turn it around and issue it back out. It’s a Herculean task.

We are very good at what we do, we are able to make mission every single time.”

Despite ESD’s enormous workload and comparatively few workers to handle it, the mission is always accomplished, said Thomas Rosello, a motor technician and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle supervisor for ESD.

“The vehicle mechanic ratio is 45 to one,” he added. “No matter what’s thrown at us over here, we somehow make it work. They will not let this place fail. Every one of them is dedicated.”

The Exercise Support Division has between 7,000 to 8,000 pieces of equipment, and only a handful of civilians and Marines to manage it at full strength, said Gunnery Sgt. Roberto Ramirez, the ESD operations chief.

“I will put our ESD against any maintenance shop in the [Department Of Defense],” he added. The civilians in ESD provide knowledge and experience that Marines need, to ensure mission success and provide mentorship for their young Marine colleagues.

“Marines come and go, but civilians always stay,” said Julia Herrera, a supply technician for ESD. “We have the background Marines need to learn.”

“Most of the civilian employees are former Marines, or a spouse or family member of a Marine, and that’s a plus,” added Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Buxton, the ESD supply chief. “It has been a good working environment.”

The civilian employees receive just as much in return from their active duty counterparts, said Karen Stadler, a supply technician for ESD.

“It’s more respectful [working with Marines] rather than the civilian world,” she said. “Because my husband was active duty, I always felt it was a family that I was working with and for.”

Others said working with Marines has caused the Corps to become a part of them.

“There’s something that makes us want to be here with the Marines,” Herrera said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms