Sgt. Kalil Knight, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, works on a Humvee May 20 at the Transportation Motor Pool on Camp Zama, Japan. (Photo by Noriko Kudo)
CAMP ZAMA, Japan – He may be a bit biased, but Sgt. Kalil Knight says he definitely has the best job in the Army.
Knight, assigned to 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion here, is wheeled vehicle mechanic for the unit. He remembers feeling fortunate to have landed his dream job when he enlisted five years ago.
Knight said he has been a hands-on person from a young age, learning to fix cars and motorcycles, and later watching online tutorials to learn more complex mechanical skills.
A friend of Knight’s owned an auto body shop, where Knight would take his car to get serviced and repaired. Every time Knight visited the shop, his friend would show him the work he was doing and would encourage Knight to learn to do the repairs himself.
“I really liked working with my hands, doing laborer types of jobs,” Knight said. “I knew that would be a job I would really enjoy doing in the Army.”
After joining the Army, Knight went through three months of in-depth and hands-on training, learning things like the intricacies of an engine and the components that make it work, how to troubleshoot mechanical problems, and how to perform diagnostic checks on a vehicle.
The training covered many principles Knight already knew about mechanical work, but at the same time he said there were new skills and experience he gained that better equipped him for his job.
“I am really grateful for the things I have learned being a mechanic in the Army,” Knight said.
The “shop” where Knight works currently has five mechanics, including three wheeled vehicle mechanics who work on Humvees and other tactical vehicles, and two generator mechanics.
Knight’s day-to-day tasks include inspecting, servicing, maintaining and repairing vehicles to “make sure they are in tip-top shape at all times,” he said.
Knight said one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is being able to take pride in the vehicles he works on, secure in the knowledge that his fellow Soldiers can count on those vehicles to be in optimal working condition whenever they need them.
In addition to becoming a mechanic, Knight said another goal of his was to serve in the Army at the same time as his mother. Knight’s mother served on active duty for 24 years until she retired recently as a master sergeant. Before she hung up her uniform, however, she was able to see her son put his on.
“[My mom] was a big inspiration for me to join the Army,” Knight said, “so it was an honor to be in the Army at the same time as her.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, some segments of the Soldier and civilian workforce transitioned to full or partial telework schedules. Knight’s job, however, was designated as “essential,” meaning he and the other mechanics continued their usual schedules in the motor pool every day.
Months into the “new normal” of living and working in a post-COVID environment, Knight says he sometimes worries. At the same time, however, he feels it is worth risk because of how much he loves his job, and how important he knows his work is to his unit’s mission.
“It feels good to feel to be needed,” Knight said.
Social distancing, one of the routines that has become commonplace in recent months, has actually given Knight and his team the ability focus on getting ahead in their services and repairs, and to be ready for upcoming inspections, he said.
Knight said he has managed to stay resilient by focusing on positive things, like the parts of his job he really enjoys, which has made his professional life more fulfilling and worthwhile.
“I love being a mechanic and getting my hands dirty,” Knight said. “That’s where my heart soars.”