Marines keep cars fit

12 Feb 2001 | Lance Cpl. Charles W. Palmer IV

It glows like a hot coal sitting in a pile of hay.  It strikes fear into all who see it.  It is that little red 'CHECK ENGINE' light that tells you you're about to spend a fortune on car repairs.

Marines and Sailors can save money while keeping their cars running smoothly and safely by doing it themselves at the Auto Hobby Shop here.

"I love working on my truck," said auto enthusiast Pfc. Anthony V. Barbera, a programmer for Information Systems Management Department, Marine Corps Base. "Why would I waste my hard-earned money paying somebody else to fix it when I can do everything they can do for less?"

The shop has tools that servicemembers can use free-of-charge.  There are only a few things such as emissions tests and state inspections that have fees, but it is still less expensive than going out in town and paying a mechanic to do it, explained retired Gunnery Sgt. Ethan Allen, an Automotive Service Excellence certified technician at the hobby shop.

"I come here because I don't have enough space in my barracks room to keep all the tools I need to keep my truck running," said Barbera, who has been in the Corps less than a year.

The shop has certified technicians to assist someone working on their car to help find out what is wrong with it.

"We're here to help you fix your car," said Allen. "Some have been working on cars since they could first hold a wrench, others barely know how to put gas in their car but that's what we're here for. We know how to do just about anything to a car and we're willing to help."

Not only does the hobby shop have a wealth of knowledge on staff but it is also a non-profit organization, explained retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert R. Obday, tool room attendant, and former Marine Corps Base and 2d Marine Division motor transport chief.

"We're here to help the Marines: active-duty, retired and their family members," said Obday. "If you went out in town and tried to get your brake drums turned for three dollars, they would laugh in your face.

The only reason we charge is to cover our costs," added Obday. "We don't get it for free but we try to get it as close to it as possible for our patrons."

The mechanics could get paid more for their services but wouldn't get the same satisfaction out of their job, said Allen. "I could get paid a lot more but I wouldn't get to interact with so many different people or have as much fun."