Newnan Marine using his love of mechanics in Afghanistan

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Looking out over his vehicle during a convoy is 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Christopher Holmstrom.

By CPL. MARCO MANCHA 2nd Marine Division PATROL BASE WOLFPACK, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- "There's one thing my stepdad told me that I'll never forget: 'If you always have a trade, you will never go hungry.'" Newnan native Sgt. Christopher Holmstrom found out at a young age he loved working with his hands and figuring out how things worked. As years passed his curiosity for discovering how remote controlled cars and Robocop worked evolved into taking apart engines on vehicles and putting them back together. Today, he continues his love for mechanics working on 12-ton vehicles in the U. S. Marine Corps and is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
"Ninety percent of my learning mechanics was self-taught," said Holmstrom. "I had always wanted to be a mechanic, and if you ever passed by my house, there'd be a good chance you'd catch me working on my vehicle." When he wasn't working as a mechanic and practicing gymnastics as a secondary hobby on his time off, Holmstrom said he really had no direction as a young man and didn't make it easy on his parents. The troublesome teenager still wasn't unruly enough, however, for his mother and stepfather to give up on him. Holmstrom explained with a smile that he wouldn't be where he's at today if it wasn't for them. He paused for a second during his interview and looked to the sky, thinking back to a certain moment in his life. Then he looked back down and continued to share what he said is something he'll never forget. "I remember it clear as day, and it stuck with me even 'til this day," he explained. "My father looked at me straight in the eyes and said, 'If you always have a trade, you will never go hungry.' That spoke volumes for me, even as a defiant teenager." Holmstrom wasted no time putting his father's advice to good use after realizing the potential his parents saw in him. He wanted to make a change in his life to better himself and to make his mother and father proud. From that point on the mechanical prodigy spent most of his free-time under a hood while attending Newnan High School. Even after graduating in 2005, he continued to pursue a career as a mechanic. He had finally found his trade, but he said he still wanted to accomplish something bigger. The 5-foot-10-inch Georgian decided to enlist and become one of "The Few, The Proud." "I joined because I wanted to make my parents proud," said Holmstrom. "I had a lot of people disappointed in me growing up, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to become a better person." Holmstrom, 23, now finds himself on his third deployment -- his second time in Afghanistan -- nearly five years after joining in January 2007. He's still a mechanic, but now he works on Light Armored Vehicles, a pricey piece of equipment averaging $900,000 per vehicle. It's Holmstrom's job as an LAV mechanic to keep the 20-foot-long vehicle running. He's changed, placed, and rebuilt more than 20 engines since arriving in Afghanistan six months ago. His hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, and the Marines around him recognize his dedication. One Marine called Holmstrom an important member of the team of LAV mechanics. "He's a good mechanic because he worked with all types of vehicles outside the Marine Corps," said fellow LAV mechanic Cpl. Austin Lange of Milwaukee. "I mean he (knows exactly how an engine works), and he suggests things that are really good. (He) is definitely a necessary asset to the team." The team of a little more than a dozen Marines has learned a lot from Holmstrom, according to Lange. He said Holmstrom helped teach the rest of the mechanics as much as he could about the LAVs throughout the deployment. "I don't just do it for myself, but for the Marines around me," explained Holmstrom. "But it's like I said before, I do my best every day to make my mom and dad proud. They believed in me even at my worst of times, and I just want to thank them for that. Mom, Dad, thank you." ••• (Editor's note: Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.)


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