When the workshop team from Force Support Element 10 (FSE-10) arrived in the Middle East, they inherited Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck. The problem was, it was spread across the workshop floor in pieces.
The vehicle had been working in Afghanistan when the engine overheated. Repairs were too complex to be managed in Kabul, so the vehicle was sent to the main Australian base for attention.
The previous workshop team from FSE-9 had completely stripped the vehicle and replaced the engine, but more problems emerged and they ran out of time to make further repairs.
Vehicle mechanic Sergeant Graeme Kennedy, team leader on the Unimog rebuild project, said the officer commanding FSE-10 was keen to get the truck rebuilt to be sent back into theatre if required.
“On handover, the team from FSE-9 gave it to us and said good luck. I was determined to finish the rebuild,” Sergeant Kennedy said.
"Completely strip and rebuild a whole vehicle is not something you do at your home unit."
The rebuild team included metalsmith Lance Corporal Daniel Waller and vehicle mechanics Craftsmen Samuel Jarvis and Joseph Green.
“It was in a million pieces and I knew it would be a mammoth task,” Lance Corporal Waller said.
Craftsman Jarvis agreed.
“I looked at this huge pile of parts on the floor and said, ‘As the junior mechanic I am going to get stabbed with a lot of this’, but it was a lot of fun,” Craftsman Jarvis said.
The team’s biggest challenge was knowing where to start, so they decided to start at the wheels and work up.
“Completely strip and rebuild a whole vehicle is not something you do at your home unit,” Craftsman Green said.
Unlike a toy construction set, the truck did not come with a book of instructions, meaning the team had to draw on their collective tradecraft skills.
“We are quite isolated in the Middle East so it requires a lot of thinking outside the box, especially as there is no rebuild manual for an up-armoured Unimog,” Sergeant Kennedy said.
Craftsman Green said he enjoyed going back to the basics of his trade: dissembling and stripping parts, diagnosing what was wrong, repairing and then putting the components back together.
"We are quite isolated in the Middle East so it requires a lot of thinking outside the box, especially as there is no rebuild manual for an up-armoured Unimog."
When the team searched for the parts in the supply catalog, they were often unavailable.
After many emails and phone calls, they eventually found most of what was needed. And, when replacements could not be sourced, parts were repaired rather than manufactured due to engineering constraints.
Thanks to the effort of the hardworking team at FSE-10, the truck is available to continue serving Australia.
“I have pride in my trade and what I can do. I can walk away from this deployment knowing I have been able to re-build a Unimog from ground up,” Craftsman Green said.
The force support element provides maintenance from the main Australian operating base in the Middle East region and supports forward task groups. The workshop includes vehicle mechanics, electricians, fitter armourers, electronic technicians and a metalsmith.