U.S. Army Pfc. Eva Hodge -- Mechanic Keeps Tracks Rolling
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Bell 372 nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BAGHDAD, Iraq - - With a 3,000-pound diesel engine hovering only inches above her head, Army Pfc. Eva Hodge, 19, from Oakdale Calif., vigorously tugs on the wrench to loosen a bolt that will allow her and fellow mechanics to remove the vital part to repair another disabled tracked vehicle.

That vehicle will keep the 69th Chemical Company, based in Hanau, Germany, moving forward to support the 1st Armored Division Artillery in southern Baghdad.

"She's just one of the guys and fits right in," Spc. Shannon McFarlane, 22, from Green Bay, Wis., said while watching Hodge struggle with a wrench to remove the fuel pump on the large V-6, 212-horsepower Detroit Engine that powers the M1059/A3 smoke generator carrier. "But you know what? She's an awesome mechanic, and I have never seen someone work so hard to accomplish the mission."

Whether it's the early-morning hours making final adjustments to an engine or the late nights using vehicle lights to illuminate the work area while maneuvering bulky engine blocks in and out of the close-fitting engine compartments, Hodge's perseverance and desire to shatter stereotypes in a predominantly male occupational area sets her apart from the other mechanics. With her fingers noticeably worn from months of working in an arduous mechanical environment and her fingernails seemingly permanently covered in grease and grime, Hodge said she takes pride in not being like other women.

"She gets dirty and doesn't mind having her nails full of grease," McFarlane said. "It's just the way she is. I know, for a fact, she would keep things rolling around here."

Brought up in California, the 19 year old said her joining the Army was something no one was prepared for. "Definitely, no one ever expected to me to sign up for the Army, let alone be a track mechanic." Hodge said laughing. "Everyone thought I was just a normal girl."

For the past 19 months, this not-so-normal mechanic has been busy working with some of the largest and heaviest tracked vehicles in the Army's inventory.

Army Pfc. Eva Hodge works on a 3,000-pound diesel engine.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Bell

Self-described as "dirty," Hodge said at the end of the day her contentment comes from knowing she completed a task that enables her unit to operate seamlessly. "It's the satisfaction that I fixed something and it's running because of me," she said. "My hands get really tore up here, but who cares about the little things. It's about completing the mission and getting these tracks running again." With long days and working into the early-evening hours, Hodge admits the work is monotonous and difficult. "It's tough sometimes to go out there every day, but I work with good people so it's kind of fun," she said. "We are doing the same thing over and over again every day. The thing that keeps me going out there is the guys I work with.

No matter the situation, Hodge said her family of six "Yankees," or track mechanics, makes the days go by as they slowly inch toward their redeployment back to Germany.

"It's boring," she said about the thought of working in an office. "I just can't sit inside all day and do nothing. I need to be working with my hands. A lot of people tell us we are crazy and that we do crazy things, but you need to be a little crazy to be out here every day on these tracks."

Scheduled to redeploy in early spring, Hodge said being away from her little brother is the most difficult part of her mission in central Iraq. "It's funny, he always irritating me, but I miss that now," she said about her 13-year-old brother, Chris.

Hodge said the thing she that misses most about her brother is his ability to rewire things. "He always plays these little jokes. He'll rewire the lights in the bathroom and even my car, and he is always upsetting me. But who cares now - I miss him. He thinks I am the coolest sister ever because not too many boys have big sisters in the Army in Iraq."

Hodge said she hopes that someday she can look back and remember the time she spent with her friends and away from family and know that she did her part to make a difference. Hodge admits the Army is only temporary. "I am going to get out and go to college for a business degree," she said. "(But) it's a great thing I am doing here. I am helping the fight on terrorism, something I'll always keep with me."

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