FLASH: Military Officer Actually Fixes Something!

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Air Force Major David Castor did two tours in Iraq, basically ensuring everyone could communicate with everyone else. In this recently-posted July interview with the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he details a trip to a malfunctioning communications site 186 miles (300 km) north of his Baghdad post. It was one of the high points of his 2007-2008 tour in the sandbox:

We had a site go down in Qayyarah West, which was up near Mosul. We tried to trouble shoot over the phone but we decided we had exhausted our ability to trouble shoot over the phone so we flew to Qayyarah West to fix the problem.

It was kind of fun. We walked into the shelter and the Engineer and the chief who went with me on that trip — they’re the ones who are more technical so they’re starting their troubleshooting steps.

If I can describe what the shelter looks like, it’s kind of the size of a small shipping container. You walk in and there’s a rack of equipment that’s installed sort of in front of you going towards the back of the shipping container. On the left side is the front of all the equipment. So all the control panels and stuff are in the front and the back where all the cable connections are made are to your right as you walk in the door.

I went to the back of the equipment because the technical guys are messing with the panels and all that stuff and I wanted to stay out of their way. My job on that kind of a trip is to talk to any sort of commander that might be there and sort of facilitate the effort; try to get support.

At that time I was just kind of along for the ride to look for the equipment. We very quickly found out that there was a problem with this power supply unit so they’re trouble shooting all the connections and that kind of stuff. I’m looking at the power supply unit and I noticed there is a little fuse holder on the back of the power supply unit. I popped open the fuse holder and said, “Guys does that look blown to you?”

It was this 25-cent fuse…

That was the problem; brought the whole shelter down. A blown fuse. The power you have available — it was running off commercial power and the power we had available was very clean so it blew a fuse.

It took us two days to get there. We spent two or three days on the ground there because it took us a while to get a flight out and on the way back I ended up getting stuck for two days at another base that wasn’t where I intended to go.

It was about a week that I was gone for a 25-cent blown fuse.

I still have that fuse and I’m very proud of the fact that I was the one who found it where these two technical guys who were going through their technical steps or whatever — oh, yes.  I have that fuse.

Before I get to my next base I plan to put it on a plaque because when I showed the Engineer that the fuse was blown he said an expletive and he said, “The captain actually fixed something.”

He had this perception that officers really can’t fix anything…

I’m going to put his quote on the plaque…I think I’ll use symbology where you use the ‘@’ symbol and ‘$’…instead of the actual expletive. That’s going to go on my desk in my office.