78,000 and counting - deployed mobile parts facilities 'grind on'
April 15, 2008
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Custom-made 7/8-inch stainless-steel bolts for a British dive team training device' No problem. Mounts for equipping Up-Armored Humvees with Czechoslovakian 12.7mm machine guns' Can do. Craft a 5-inch socket from a 6-inch hunk of steel' Too easy.
Since October 2003 requests like these have frequently come to the technicians who operate U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command's Mobile Parts Hospitals in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
A self-contained, self-sustaining mobile manufacturing "system of systems," the MPH efficiently fabricates standard and unique parts at or near the point of need.
The project is managed by the Industrial Base Operations Directorate under TACOM's Life Cycle Management Command.
MPH project manager Jim Uribe, says the MPH helps assure overall mission success by providing the right part, at the right time, in the right quantity.
"The systems are strategically located in theater," said Uribe. "The user, and by that I mean units and Soldiers engaged in operations, no longer have to wait unnecessarily for critical repair items or parts needed in the field."
Parts like those listed above, some unique - some not, can take weeks or months to obtain through normal procurement procedures, resulting in extensive downtime, reduced readiness rates and frustration.
In Kuwait, at the 401st Army Field Support Brigade's Forward Repair Activity, site coordinator Lance Jennings and machinist Kyle Owens can be a welcome sight to customers seeking help.
"If someone needs a part we'll find a way to get it done," Said Jennings, who like Owens is a volunteer deployed to Southwest Asia from Anniston Army Depot, Ala.
"A lot of what people come in for we can design and make right here, but there are things we have to send back to the states to have fabricated."
Working in collaboration with the other MPH sites in theater and stateside engineers, specifications and imagery of the desired item are input to the specialized "Windchill" data base that supports the MPH program - the design drawn up at each site is vetted by engineers at TACOM's Research, Development and Engineering Center, and approved for fabrication - either in SWA or stateside.
Depending on the quantity desired and priority, a job can be turned around quickly. "We have a good idea what the engineers are looking for when approving a design, so (often) we can go ahead and start production to shorten the customers wait," said Jennings. "When the final approval comes in we can release the item to the user."
Recently, Army diver Sgt. Josh Palmer of 10th Mountain Division's 74th Engineer Dive Team came to the MPH looking for help. "We need sections of the steel anchoring rods we drive into the seabed with a jackhammer," said Palmer. "I came to see these guys because I know they will do everything they can to get them made."
The MPH is an asset placed in theater to provide support to all customers. "It doesn't matter who knocks on our door," said Owens. "We're here to serve the warfighter."
With nearly five years in theater, and more than 78,000 units produced, the MPH and its team of professionals - deployed and at home - have answered the call.