Machinists use ingenuity, experience to assist Soldiers in Hurricane Sandy aftermath
January 16, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 16, 2013) -- Although Fort Drum is most widely known for the roughly 20,000 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers assigned here, Department of the Army civilians play an integral role in ensuring troops can complete their mission, at home or abroad.
When 10th Mountain Division Soldiers (LI) assisting with hurricane recovery after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Oct. 29, needed help producing parts to allow military fuel nozzles to be used to fuel civilian vehicles, they reached out to the civilian employees at the Directorate of Logistics for help.
Because gasoline was rationed after the storm, one mission 10th Mountain Division Soldiers were responsible for was refueling emergency vehicles.
Refuelers from 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, began making preparations to provide assistance to first responders in New Jersey and New York. However, the troops ran into a problem -- fuel nozzles on military vehicles will not fit into civilian cars and trucks.
Maj. Danny Frieden, brigade logistics support team chief for Army Field Support Battalion, and Ted Gargas, 3rd Brigade Combat Team logistics management specialist, began considering their options.
"Originally, (the plan was) to weld a piece onto the vehicle's fuel nozzle, which would have destroyed this whole (piece)," Gargas explained.
Gargas and Frieden decided it was better to thread the top part of the nozzle and the new nozzles. After completing the mission, the nozzles could be removed and no damage would be done to the vehicle nozzles.
The two went to a local plumbing store and bought steel pipe and fittings, threaded them together and took them to the Directorate of Logistics to see if it was possible to fabricate the parts, because what they needed wasn't available in the Army supply system.
"I knew DOL could do everything," Gargas said. "I knew that if anyone could do it on short notice, they can do it. We went there hoping they could fulfill our request. They did, and then some."
The experts at DOL looked at what Frieden and Gargas came up with and made a few suggestions.
"By using that type of metal (steel), there's a chance that it would cause a spark and the vehicle would explode," Frieden said. "We came back that evening -- about four or five hours later -- and they showed us the most beautiful aluminum nozzle."
On Nov. 6, in less than six hours, the three machinists created 65 fuel nozzles. Each nozzle would normally take about 30 minutes to complete, but the DOL machinists on the project fabricated them in about 10 minutes each, according to said Jeffrey Bell, Directorate of Logistics special purpose equipment / allied trades supervisor.
"We fabricate hard-to-get parts that (customers) can't purchase from manufacturers," Bell said. "We look at their specifications to see if that's actually going to work for them for what they're trying to do. We look at the safety issues to make sure nobody is going to get hurt. We make one test sample and then we create the final product.
"They're very knowledgeable guys and they bend over backwards to complete the Soldiers' and garrison's projects," he added. "There's no project too big or too small for those guys. They're amazing."
Joe Leduc and Gary Dindl, two of the three machinists who completed the project, have a total of 75 years of experience. Walt Gurdak, who assisted in fabricating the nozzles, spent his last two days before retirement working on the project.
"Walt broke a sweat on his last two days. He didn't get an easy day. He was a big contributor (to this project)," Dindl said, laughing.
Creating items on a short suspense is just part of the job, Dindl added.
"For as fast as we had to make them and in such a short amount of time, there was a lot of head scratching," Dindl said. "We were brought the idea and we had to modify it, and then (we) used the tools and made them.
"That's what we're here for," he continued. "We're mission-driven, and it has to be done."
Not only did the team fulfill complete the project on time, but they saved money in the process, Leduc explained.
"The nozzle we made came out to be about $8 apiece," he said. "We saved them money and they didn't have the time to order them to get them here in time for the mission. We either made the adapters or the mission failed."
Frieden added that to purchase the complete set for each nozzle would have cost just under $3,000.
Because of the deadline the Soldiers faced, it was important to get the nozzles on the trucks as soon as possible so the convoy could leave for the mission. However, another problem popped up.
In order to attach the new nozzle, they needed a way to secure the truck nozzle while they were threaded, Frieden said.
"(The DOL machinists) manufactured -- right there on the spot -- a way to hold the vice on the back of their truck so they could drive out there, take the fuel nozzle, lock it in the vice and spin the nozzles on," he said. "They drove to every (military) truck and put them on."
Gargas signed for DOL's tools and special parts they made for the project and took it to the relief site so they could work on the trucks that had left the day before and were already there.
The next day, the team helped thread the new nozzles on the trucks that were preparing to leave Fort Drum. The team also showed the refuelers how to thread the nozzles on the vehicles that had already arrived in New York City, Dindl added.
"They couldn't get some of the nozzles off the trucks, so they had to pull the hose up, clamp it and thread it into place," he explained. "We gave them a lesson, and they did some of that in New York when they got there."
Frieden admitted that he was surprised that the DOL team was able to produce such a great product on such a short suspense.
"They were superstars," he said. "We didn't expect them to be able to do it right then and there, especially not that many; they dropped everything and put this right in front."
"We couldn't have asked for better support from the DOL for this mission," he noted.
Whether a customer needs parts for a snow blower, military vehicle or weapon system, Leduc said they are always up for a challenge.
"Gary and I try to do the best work we can on each project," he said. "Two heads are better than one. We pretty much can make anything (our customers) bring in. Very seldom do we turn down a job."
Dindl agreed, adding that he and Leduc get along well, and that makes a big difference.
In many cases, the products that the DOL machinists fabricate are better than what can be ordered from the manufacturer, because it's specific to what the unit or organization needs, Bell explained.
"If these two guys can't make it, nine times out of 10, it can't be made," he said. "That's just being truthful."