Oil Filters, Fan Belts Take To The Field
May 7, 2010
- Employees spend their working hours designing, equipping and shipping mobile units that take helicopter maintenance to the field.
- The goal of the TEP is to supply these mobile units and to make tools, equipment and hardware easily accessible to TAMP mechanics.
- "Because these units are used on-site (near the battlefield), we tailor each package to the needs of the unit."
- "If we can reduce the hassle and time delay of purchasing off-the-shelf items then Soldiers in theater can concentrate on the war fight."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Supplying in-theater aviation mechanics with tools, equipment and hardware starts right here at Redstone Arsenal.
At an office/warehouse space located just off post near the Jetplex, employees of the Integrated Materiel Management Center's Readiness Directorate spend their working hours designing, equipping and shipping mobile units that take helicopter maintenance and refurbishment to the field.
The project began three years ago. Today, the IMMC Readiness Directorate's Theater Equipment Package involves six employees who work at a 30,000-square-foot facility where mobile units, metal working tools, hand tools and other equipment needed by the Army's Theater Aviation Maintenance Program are compiled, inventoried, stored and shipped to theater.
"When the war started, the effort took parts, equipment and people from the National Guard's Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depots. They became an Army asset for the war effort under the name Theater Aviation Maintenance Program with the depots located in theater," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tim McLeod, IMMC's liaison officer for the Theater Aviation Maintenance Program.
The Guard's four aviation depots - located at Springfield, Mo.; Groton, Conn.; Gulfport, Miss.; and Fresno, Calif. - along with its headquarters element (known as the Aviation Depot Maintenance Roundout Unit) in Edgewood, Md. -- are on a constant rotation to support the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The units take care of all the National Guard aviation assets," McLeod said. "All five are in the mix to work the rotation of TAMP. When they first kicked this off, they had to borrow tools from each site to stand the TAMP up in Iraq. They were then resupplied by the Army."
While in the U.S., the National Guard units are referred to as Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depots. But, when they receive orders to mobilize, they become active Army units of the Aviation and Missile Command's Theater Aviation Maintenance Program. Each TAMP includes 135 Soldiers.
"The commander of the unit becomes the senior aviation logistician in theater for aviation matters, representing the AMCOM commanding general," McLeod said.
A permanent TAMP depot maintenance facility - including the Theater Reserve Supply Support Activity -- is located in Kuwait.
But throughout theater there are custom-designed mobile maintenance facilities that are equipped with hundreds of needed tools and supplies for use in maintaining aviation systems in the field. Currently, there are 46 mobile units in theater. Each unit is 8 feet by 8 feet by 20 feet in size with some units expanding in width from 8 feet to 16 feet and 24 feet.
The goal of the TEP is to supply these mobile units and to make tools, equipment and hardware easily accessible to TAMP mechanics so that helicopters needing repairs or refurbishment are quickly returned to the field. The TAMP is equipped with $94 million in equipment and includes everything from oil filters and fan belts to generators and clutch disks. They also include items like a hydroblaster pressure washing system and a port-a-cool system.
"All the tooling is aviation specific," McLeod said. "The tools and equipment include presses, drill presses, band saws, metal rollers, metal shears, welders and three types of tool boxes -- one for general mechanic tools, one for sheet metal tools and one for machinist tools. Because these units are used on-site, we tailor each package to the needs of the unit."
Besides the mobile units, TEP also supplies mobile machine shops, integrated storage units and large area maintenance shelters. And it has developed ways to quickly supply and resupply the mobile units with items needed for repairs or refurbishment once they are in the field.
"We incorporated the use of a web-based purchase place software system for commercial off-the-shelf items that they needed," McLeod said. "It was taking 180-plus days to get these items into theater. With the new system we've reduced that to 28 days.
"We've also set up a store front here for items they use commonly in theater. They can get these items within seven days. Time is the big thing. If we can reduce the hassle and time delay of purchasing off-the-shelf items then the Soldiers in theater can concentrate on the war fight."
The TEP provides all items needed to maintain an aviation system from "cradle to grave," he said.
It also has a training classroom where National Guard Soldiers learn how to operate and maintain the mobile units. Simplicity, convenience and efficiency are all considered in the design of the mobile units.
"They are so simple that, other than the power housing, they can be put together in 30 minutes," McLeod said. "It's like putting Lego blocks together."
TEP employees begin working with the National Guard units as soon as they are notified of a mobilization. They work with Guard Soldiers to train them on how to construct the mobile units in theater, set up equipment inside the mobile units, operate the mobile units safely and efficiently, and maintain the units to Army standards. The TEP staff includes McLeod, budget officer Eric Cowan, office manager Stacy Lundy, property book officer Dan Kuykendall, facility manager Steve Vincent, and shipping and receiving employees Brooke Ozbolt and Kathy Ward.
As the war effort draws down in Iraq, aviation equipment no longer needed in theater will be shipped to the TEP.
"We will bring that equipment back to the serviceable standard. We will refurbish right here, and then we will keep them here until they are needed in the next conflict," McLeod said. "We will add about 12 more employees -- general mechanics, electricians and technicians - to help with that effort."
The TEP will also grow in size to 68,000 square feet to accommodate space needed for returning equipment.
"Our mobile units are in several different locations in Iraq and we are now beginning to support Afghanistan with these mobile units," McLeod said. "This effort is to provide our Soldiers with better support in the field so that they don't have to send aviation units back to the rear."