FORWARD OPERATING BASE WALTON, Afghanistan — With a single flip of a switch, a soldier with 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, is helping save the Army hundreds of dollars at a time.
Spc. Hector Salas, a native of Juarez, Mexico, is a wheeled vehicle mechanic, with Bravo Company, 501st BSB. In the three months he has been deployed, he has assisted in saving the Army nearly $50,000 in recycled batteries.
“Based on past experiences, the batteries have been the number one issue throughout the Army in the motor pool,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Juan Santibañez, B Company 501st automotive maintenance technician, and a native of Houston, Texas.
Often times, soldiers go to the motor pool on Monday mornings to check their vehicles, and leave the switches on in the vehicles, resulting in dead batteries, said Santibañez.
When Salas and Santibañez deployed to Afghanistan and saw dozens of presumed dead batteries waiting to be disposed of, they jumped to action.
“We keep finding good batteries,” said Salas. “I took a battery charger and tried to go through every single battery that I thought could be brought back to life.”
In addition to reviving their own batteries, these soldiers have also provided battery chargers to other battalions within the brigade.
“We’ve been able to support and push out batteries to different battalions and different units,” said Santibañez.
“We are working together to provide battery chargers for the rest of the battalions and make sure they know how to use the equipment,” added Salas.
The concept, which began at Fort Bliss prior to the deployment, has shown promising results with its success.
Each battery, which ranges from $250 to $400, is recharged, putting that much money back into the pocket of the military, which is especially vital during a time of fiscal uncertainty and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.
Many vehicles come into the shop for maintenance use four batteries, said Salas. When soldiers bring their vehicles in with dead batteries, all four of them are replaced, rather than just finding the one dead battery.
“We can test each individual battery,” said Salas. “Once we find the only bad battery in the vehicle, then we can replace it.”
With a flip of a generator switch, Salas can oversee more than a dozen batteries being charged every day.
“This is great for fostering ideas,” said Capt. Jeffrey Hunt, B Company, 501st BSB commander, and a native of Corunna, Mich. “This is letting the soldiers take root, grow and do something amazing. Then, they can pass it on to the next unit who takes our place.”