Soldiers work together at Allied Trades

Story and photos by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Soldiers with the 514th Maintenance Company's Allied Trades shops solve problems at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, ranging from repairing shipping containers to renovating old vehicles to flag cases.

Allied Trades comprises a woodshop, a machinist shop and a welding shop with a container repair yard.

"You name it, we do it," said Spc. Dominick Brown, a metalworker at the Allied Trades welding shop for the 514th Maint. Co., 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

"We get anything from huge trucks to small boxes (to repair)," said Brown, a Los Angeles native. "Basically anything the Army needs."

One the most important missions for Allied Trades is the inspection and repair of containers, he said.

The metalworkers repair low-level damage to connexes, fixing small holes, damaged seals and dented or bent support beams, so redeploying units can ship equipment home without having to buy new containers, he said.

Container repair is their main mission, but it's just the tip of the iceberg of Allied Trades' capabilities, said Staff Sgt. Margaret Armstrong, the noncommissioned officer In charge of Allied Trades and a Hazleton, Penn., native.

In the woodshop, skilled woodworkers build furniture for units and, when the mission-essential work is done, awards and keepsakes, sometimes putting in long hour with those side projects, Armstrong said.

"It's not our everyday mission, but it helps morale," said Armsrong. "It keeps my (Soldiers') skills honed, especially on the machinist side."

Armstrong said one of her proudest moments was when her Soldiers built a flag case for a 514th Soldier who died before the deployment. When their first sergeant went home on leave, he delivered the case to the Soldier's family in person.

Spc. Chad Moncada was a mechanic with the 514th and said he was asked to become a woodworker in the shop because of the skill set he developed outside the Army.

"My stepfather was a carpenter," said Moncada, a Holiday, Fla., native.

Although he was content fixing vehicles, Moncada said he is proud of the work he does in the shop, especially making keepsakes like the flag case for the fallen Soldier.

"I'm happy doing this," he said.

The Allied Trades machinist shop is home to the Army's only Computer Numerical Control system in Iraq, said Armstrong.

The CNC machine allows Soldiers to input detailed images and have the computerized machine cut them accurately, she said.

Allied Trades uses the CNC system, along with manual equipment, to fabricate parts for Army vehicles and equipment faster than they can be obtained through the standard ordering process, she said.

The equipment is also used to make awards and keepsakes, such as detailed, brass unit patches and nameplates.

Armstrong said her team has a passion for the work it does and uses its combined skills to not only complete the mission-essential tasks but provide quality pieces of art that units could not get anywhere else. This takes some sacrifice, she said.

"They work 15 to 20 hour days sometimes," she said. "I couldn't ask for a better group of Soldiers."


news photo
Spc. Chad Moncada, an Allied Trades woodworker with the 514th Maintenance Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Holiday, Fla., native, puts the finishing touches on a flag case at the Allied Trades woodshop Jan. 20 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. When they are not building mission essential furniture, Moncada and the other woodworkers build keepsakes for units at JBB.
(U.S. Army photo by: Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)