Reporter's notebook: Haunted generators a challenge to mechanic
August 22, 2008
AL ASAD, Iraq — An electrical equipment specialist with the Okinawa-based Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 has been a one-man show of sorts during his Iraq tour — a one-man show that’s needed some adjustments.
"They use a different color-coding system for wiring," Cpl. Cezary Swirydziuk, 23, said of the Iraqi electrical system at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province.
Swirydziuk’s responsibilities include maintaining all the generators used by the squadrons on the flight line. And when a generator goes down, he said, everyone seems to know his name. He is the only electrical equipment mechanic in the camp.
"Everyone relying on you to get the generators running" can be trying, he said.
Especially demanding, Swirydziuk said, have been the generators of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4.
"I believe their generators are haunted," the Chicago native said. "It’s impossible to keep them running."
Personnel with that squadron tell him that sometimes the generators turn on and off by themselves, he said. He does have some advice for all those with generators at the flight line.
"If something goes wrong with your generator, don’t touch it," Swirydziuk said of folks trying to fix the equipment themselves.
"They think they are helping," but it makes it harder for him to troubleshoot the original problem, he said.
And keeping the generators running is hard enough.
"If you add up all the parts I’ve replaced in some generators, it’s probably more than the generator itself cost," he said.
Big plans put on hold for deployment
Cpl. Jeff Parks, 23, has big plans for when he gets out of the Marine Corps.
He already bought a house in his hometown of Pisgah, Ohio. And he had plans to start college in the fall, majoring in child development and minoring in food preparation.
Yes, he was all set for life after his Marine career. His enlistment was to end in September, and by August, he would have been on terminal leave, he said.
But he put those plans on hold, extending his contract by four months to be with his comrades of Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 when the unit deployed in the spring.
"I’ve never been over here before, and I wanted to come out with the guys," Parks said.
"They asked who wanted to go," so he volunteered, he recounted.
His mom wasn’t happy at first, but eventually she understood that he had to do it, he said.
"Every parent doesn’t want their child out here, but she understood that I’ve been with these guys so long."
This is Parks’ longest deployment, and he said: "It’s different being out here."
Different includes mentally challenging, he said, especially as "everybody is just ready for me to come home." But he believes his decision to stick out the deployment will help him in the future.
He’s also socked away some money for that future. Since being in Iraq, Parks said, he’s saved $17,000 and hopes to up it to $25,000 by the time the deployment ends.