USACE Far East District Public Affairs
SEOUL, South Korea - The mechanics of the Far East District Motor Pool have many professional certifications and a wide range of experience with various diesel, gas and electric vehicles. That broad skill set has driven some amazing accomplishments.
It’s the result of constant effort and planning.
“I grab any training that I possibly can, especially if it’s local,” said Ken Pickler, chief of the Far East District’s Transportation Section. One such training opportunity was at the Hyundai plant in Seoul, where mechanics learned about hybrid gas-electric vehicle technologies used across the board in Hyundai’s newest models.
While this approach serves the Far East District well because of the proximity to the manufacturers of much of its fleet, its mechanics have also trained in diverse locations like Taiwan and Sacramento, California. This poses a challenge since the Far East District’s mechanics aren’t required to be fluent in any language other than Korean. One workaround was an on-site translator provided by the Information Management section; another training administered its certification tests in Korean.
Actual training itself wasn’t so complicated, Pickler said. The hands-on training transferred information between the master mechanics in a way that classroom training couldn’t; however, hands-on demands some prerequisite experience in and aptitude for mechanical concepts.
“Point and grunt goes a long way, mechanic to mechanic… Kind of like a Chilton’s manual,” said Pickler. “To use a manual like that, you need at least a basic understanding of mechanics and the underlying principles. For our mechanics, the hands-on offers the most valuable kind of training.”
The value of this on-going training is essential, said Kil, Min-Su, Automotive Mechanic Foreman, because of the constant upgrades to sensitive mechanisms and systems in new vehicles. Training is necessary in order to use new tools, use new repair techniques and to apply current maintenance methods, he said.
Kil said that getting the training can be a challenge, since not every manufacturer is willing to train groups as small as the motor pool team, while others limit training seats to just one or two people.
The latter situation, Pickler said, demands using a “train-the-trainer” approach; the one or two people trained are then experts on that topic and will lead training for the rest of the team.
At other times, careful negotiation and attentiveness to schedule changes have allowed Kil the chance to squeeze in training opportunities where none existed before.
Despite the challenges, Pickler said that he remains committed to providing his team the training needed to keep their skills as master mechanics sharp and up-to-date.