Laboring in full fatigues and lugging yourself, your weapon and ancillary equipment around would not exactly be a Marine’s joy in even the nicest weather, but when temperatures routinely spike at over 100 degrees in Afghanistan, the guy who keeps the air conditioning humming may at times be the most popular guy on the base.
Such is the case for U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Flores, a refrigeration mechanic in the 9th Communication Battalion, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, whose job it is to make sure that our troops can, wherever possible, have some semblance of air-conditioned comfort in one of the world’s most inhospitable regions.
Among the Marine’s duties are keeping tabs of over 170 air-conditioning units at Camp Leatherneck – the massive, 1,600 acre Marine Corps base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan – and making sure that they are maintained and fixed quickly if they break down. While this may be a routine job in a 170-unit stateside apartment complex, almost nothing is easy in the unforgiving Afghan terrain, a harsh environment subject to temperature extremes and dust storms – not to mention the occasional incoming mortar.
"Biweekly, I go to all my [air conditioning] units," said Flores. "I do visual inspections, make sure they're good, and clean the dust filters. Right now, I already know just by the wind which ones are dirty."
"His mission is important, because he creates a controlled climate environment for the critical communications equipment here, which creates a lot of heat in an already hot environment," said Marine Corps Sgt. Jeremiah Loeffler, the battalion's air conditioning section head and quality control noncommissioned officer.
It’s not easy to be in Afghanistan – ever – and guys like Lance Cpl. Flores help with all the little things that make the rigors of being away from home and in a war zone just a little easier to bear.