By Jim Hinnant, 401st Army Field Support BrigadeSeptember 7, 2008
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait Ac"a,! Operational and environmental conditions in Afghanistan place heavy loads on not just Soldiers, but also the combat and tactical vehicles used to transport people and equipment around the Operation Enduring Freedom area of operations.
Maintaining the generators, alternators and starters these vehicles rely on to keep the wheels of transport turning got a real boost recently, as sister battalions of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade worked together to provide better diagnostic and testing capability at the Army Materiel Command's operation at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
The 3rd Battalion's Field Service Maintenance Shop, Fuel and Electric Section, services and repairs, among other components, these critical electricity producing and managing items that power the various systems found in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, Humvees, and other vehicles.
Key to the F&E shop's diagnosis, repair and testing function is the 400 ampere-hour generator test stand, used to ensure a specific component is producing all the "juice" it should and that it will hold up under load.
Recently the critical nature of the testing process became evident during the repair of MRAP generators that had suffered damage when serpentine belt pulleys essentially disintegrated when the bearings in the open-faced pulley failed.
The failure not only caused the belt to come apart, but flying metal fragments from the pulley could damage other components, such as the alternator.
The pulley failures have since been addressed by introducing a solid, closed design, and once replaced and the generator tested, the component could be returned to stock for reissue to the warfighter.
But, the weary generator test stand in the F&E shop wasn't up to the task, as due to corrosion and other internal damage, it wasn't able to produce the required number of amperes, peaking out at some 50 less than the 400 needed to fully test repaired components to be sure they were ready for use under combat conditions.
The inability to diagnose, repair and test the generators in Afghanistan would mean the item would have to be shipped back to U.S. for depot-level work - making the repair much more expensive and adding weeks to the process.
3rd Battalion notified the brigade of the need for a replacement test stand, and one was found on-hand in the 1st Battalion's Army Preposition Stocks storage in Qatar.
The test stand was pulled from stock, serviced and tested by Curtis Knott, an ITT Inc., contractor who works in the 1st Battalion's F&E shop. Once Knott was satisfied that it was performing as required, it was shipped from Qatar directly to Bagram where it was placed into service.
For his work as part of the team effort to get the stand to 3rd Battalion in a timely manner, Knott was recognized as the brigade's "Champion of the Week" for Aug. 20, 2008.
Colonel Jon Buonerba, 401st AFSB Commander, says the importance of the generator test stand can't be overstated.
"This stand allows us to not only test the MRAP generator, but other electrical components like starters and alternators, and for other vehicles like the Humvee and Stryker," said Buonerba. "It is a critical piece of equipment we need to do our job here."