Glen Ferrarotto - "Get the mechanic up here"
As Aussie soldiers, we're always humble, right? So we don't do this a lot, we don't talk about what we do and how we do it and as mechanics, it was hard to consider yourself part of that team, part of that elite team. But the operators, they couldn't give a shit whether you wore a beret, whether you'd been in the Defence Force for 20 years or five minutes. As long as you were good at your job, you were part of that team and you realized very quickly how integral the mechanic and the patrol mechanic is to a vehicle mounted Special Forces patrol.
This is back when we were still getting around in Land Rover 110s without armour. We had one or two Bushmasters, which were the only fully protected vehicles, the rest of us were in open-air vehicles. The only armour we had on us was what we were wearing. We'd set the cars up with... You'd put the spare wheels on the doors sometimes because that provided extra protection from small arms or you'd have this makeshift armour that was like a LEGO set that they had started supplying over at the time. You'd strap that with tape and bits and pieces around your fuel tanks and that's how agricultural it was back then.
And so shit broke all the time and everything was overloaded, all the motorbikes were overloaded. I guess there'd be four or five sniper teams as part of each patrol, they're on six-wheel drive Polaris motorbikes, you'd have detachments from Perth with you that would generally have a dog with them as well or a couple of dogs. The first time something broke, I don't think I'll ever forget it. We were going through a creek line and it was only the morning of the night that we left, so the sun had only just come up.
We'd always leave at night to get through Tarin Kowt town before the sun would come up, that would give them less time to figure out that we were on our way out somewhere. And the convoy came to a stop and I got to dread stopping because every time we'd stop, it'd be because something was broken and I probably still carry that burden with me now. I hate stopping, I can't stand stopping when we're moving forward, in life in general to be honest.
So we stopped and you could just see people turning around and over the radio, "Get the mechanic up here." So you'd get out, you'd take your rifle, a grab bag of tools, I'd make my way down to the front of the convoy, you'd only walk in the vehicle tracks and one of the sniper's motorbikes was in the creek line, it wasn't starting. And I just remember thinking that the entire patrol rests on me being able to fix this motorbike right now. Not say, "Mate, we're just going to tow it and take it back to the workshop and we'll fix it tomorrow," it had to be fixed and it had to start then.
And the sniper whose bike it was was this giant and the world's best blokes but you were still in awe of these guys as well and I didn't want to let him down, I didn't want to let the entire company down. To top it off, mate, I wasn't qualified to fix that motorbike, so I had never done a course on a motorbike. And so mate, it was just put every skill you had to the test, black out everything around you and just get the…bike fixed.
And I think I ended up cutting a hole in the air intake and modifying it somehow, so that it was getting air because it wasn't getting any air because it was just clogged up with dust. And that became a constant issue for these bikes, so when we got to the end of that day, I went around all the bikes and I did the same job on all the motorbikes, just so that they could breathe. And that was the life of the patrol mechanic.
When you'd stop, if you'd stopped because it was a planned stop, sometimes the guys would go off and do a job, sometimes there's an opportunity to sleep, eat. Sleeping and eating didn't become day and night, it was just if you stop, you sleep, if you can, you eat but for the patrol mechanic it was, if you stop, you get on your feet and you walk around every vehicle crew and you ask them how the car's going. "Are there any issues?" "Did you break anything?" "Do you need me to look at anything?" And it was constant, it would never stop.