ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot is the place to go for an M1 Abrams tank in need of overhaul, but, when maintenance is required in the field, the depot's workforce and facilities are thousands of miles away and Soldiers have to know how to get the tank back on its way.

When it comes to repairing the equipment located in the M1's turret, the Soldiers learn using tools built, in part, here on the installation.

In 2009, ANAD partnered with Research Triangle Institute International to overhaul and upgrade 18 turret trainers originally built by a number of defense contractors throughout the 1980s.

Since work began, the requested number has increased to 23 total trainers -- 19 of which are being built to specifications matching the M1A2 System Enhancement Package, version 2, while the remaining four are being formed into situational awareness trainers.

"We've had a lot of challenges with this program," said Kevin Martin, a maintenance management specialist with the depot's Directorate of Production Management. "The trainers were built in the 1980s by three different companies and we are now trying to build continuity into the program and make them all the same."

Employees at the depot are accomplishing that continuity by stripping each trainer to its bare metal components, then treating it like a true turret overhaul.

As parts are removed and inspected, those being reused are sent to the depot's various component shops to be cleaned, inspected, repaired or rebuilt, painted and then reinstalled on the trainer.

"We're getting the Soldier what he really needs and that is what we are here for," said Stevie Williamson, supervisor for the depot's Final Acceptance Branch, where disassembly and reassembly of each trainer occurs.

There, three stations assemble each portion of the trainer before they are prepared for shipment to Orlando, Fla., where RTII completes assembly, adding the equipment needed for training simulations.

"All of the working parts we put on the trainer are code A -- just as if they were going into a tank," said Matt Thomas, a mechanic in the depot's Directorate of Production, adding that all items, whether they are operational or not, are placed in the same location in the trainer as they would be on the main battle tank.

This includes the gun tube, which the trainer mechanics refer to as a stubby, because it is far shorter than a real gun tube. To give it realistic characteristics, however, the tube is weighted.

"Once the Soldiers leave training and go into the field, they should see the same thing in a real tank as they did in the trainer," said Martin.

Page last updated Thu October 11th, 2012 at 14:41