CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq -- The treacherous desert environment takes it’s toll on the hundreds of vehicles and thousands of weapons and communications equipment used to conduct daily military operations in the western region of Iraq.
Much of this equipment can not be repaired or requires maintenance beyond what can be accomplished here, requiring it to be shipped to one of the logistical bases in the country for restoration or replacement.
St. Charles, Missouri native, Lance Cpl. Katie L. Arnold ensures that each piece of equipment gets to where it needs to go to ensure Marines here stay in the fight. The 21-year-old maintenance management specialist tracks hundreds of parts and pieces of gear every week from the nearly endless inventory of equipment needed to help the 2nd Marine Division take the fight to the enemy.
“If there is a piece of gear broken, I know about it,” said Arnold. “I monitor every piece of gear as it goes through the maintenance cycle.”
Arnold spends the majority of her day scanning over her list of thousands of parts. She’s responsible for ensuring that the Marines who need gear get it. It’s a complex process but Arnold said she has it under control.
“We’ve got it down now so we can run the entire shop for weeks with only one person,” Arnold said. “We’ve got a system down that makes it pretty easy.”
After months of constantly monitoring her reports, Arnold said she almost has them memorized. She knows when a part should be shipped out and when it should return from repair.
“I go over my reports daily looking at every single part for discrepancies,” Arnold said. “If you look at this stuff long enough you start to remember every piece.”
Arnold ships broken parts and pieces twice a week to ensure that the repair process is responsive. She works closely with her fellow Marines from Headquarters Battalion through daily phone calls, e-mails and updates from the various units on and off the camp. Every piece of gear gets marked, inventoried, annotated and boxed before shipment and repair.
“We go through more than a thousand parts a month so it gets hectic,” Arnold said. “But I think we’ve got the process down now and it couldn’t run any smoother.”
The last six months have been arduous for Arnold. She remembers spending many long days and nights getting all the kinks out of the system. She said the long hours are difficult, but she has been able to rely on her friends here for support.
“I don’t think I could have got through it all out here without the help of my friends,” she said. “We can talk to each other about anything. We have our own little support system here.”
Arnold said she can rely on her friends to understand the things that her family back in Missouri does not.
“My family has been great and they support me being here, but sometimes they don’t understand what it’s like here,” She said. “My dad actually thought I was on an all female base. So they don’t always get it.”
Arnold’s parents have not always been supportive of her choice to join the Marines though. She said her parents were worried about her decision but have become very supportive.
“Since I came back from boot camp my parents have supported me one-hundred percent and they are very proud of the job I am doing now,” Arnold said.
After graduating from Francis Howell Central High School in June 2002 she attended St. Charles Community College but lacked the focus to excel in her studies. She later began perusing her real estate license in Missouri, but she was told that at 19 she lacked the life experience needed to be successful in the real estate business.
Since graduating recruit training in October 2003, she said the last few years in the Marines have given her both self-determination and a sense of purpose.
“I’ve grown up a lot and matured a lot since I joined,” Arnold said. “I used to rely on my family for things. Some might even say I was spoiled, but I’ve gained my independence now.
“After this experience I feel like I have a purpose here and that I have made a difference,” Arnold said. “We’re supporting the Marines who are giving the people here an opportunity to be free.”