By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderDecember 16, 2008
Early in his tenure as tactical support operations supervisor at Fort Jackson, Harvey J. Jackson heard a comment from a Soldier that he said bothered him.
"I got another broken weapon," Jackson recalls hearing the Basic Combat Training Soldier say. The statement made Jackson wonder.
"A Soldier is here only 10 weeks, how do you have another broken weapon'" he asked himself.
Jackson soon made it a priority to ensure each Soldier had working equipment, but despite his staff's long hours and dedication, it was nearly impossible for his team of 11 technicians to service the 20,000 weapons Soldiers used in the course of the year.
But a new U.S. Army Materiel Command program, started at Fort Jackson this year, will go a long way to ensuring the weapons, radios, night vision goggles and other equipment put into Soldiers' hands work each and every time.
The $4.8 million U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command/TACOM Life Cycle Management Command-initiated project, called Fleet Management Expansion - or FMX -- tasks TACOM to bring in outside teams to service tactical equipment for the entire post.
TACOM manages the Small Arms Readiness and Evaluation Team and the Communications-Electronics Evaluation Repair Team. SARET arrived first in late November and work is planned to continue through Dec. 20.
SARET brought 80 men and women who work up to 13-hour days on weapons ranging from M-9s to mortar rounds, said mission leader Terry Rosenthal.
"We are inspecting and repairing small arms weapons," he said. "They leave (here) mission capable, which is our goal."
The team brings more than 1,000 parts with them to be able to repair or completely refurbish the weapons, Rosenthal said. Those weapons that cannot be repaired are "coded out," or designated as unusable, and taken out of the rotation to be replaced.
Rosenthal said his teams usually work on weapons for Soldiers who are deploying or who have recently returned from deployment. This mission, he said, is not only for a different purpose than usual, it is larger. In a normal mission, the team may fix 500 weapons a day. This time, they are aiming for 1,000.
"For this one, we have double the teams and double the weapons," he said.
Jackson said each battalion on Fort Jackson is given a designated day to drop off weapons to be repaired.
Estimating each company has 267 weapons, Jackson said a company can have its weapons dropped off and returned within two or three hours. A battalion's worth of weapons can be completed within a day. The formula to have the weapons repaired may seem complicated, but timing is crucial. BCT Soldiers need their weapons to train, and can spare little time without them.
Next door in the weapons pool, behind a locked gate and barbed wire, another team works diligently on electronics. CEER-T has staked out a corner where they are working on radios. other members of the team are in a small, mobile trailer outside, where they are taking apart, cleaning and repairing night vision goggles.
William Bolling II, site lead for the 17-member team, said his team does all things electronic.
"You name it, I do it all," he said. "We go to the various bases and we basically fix their radios and their night vision. They bring us junk, and we give them stuff that works."
His team arrived Dec. 1. Unlike SARET, Bolling said his team is working on a smaller scale than usual. He expects his team to repair about 1,000 night vision goggles and 1,000 radios in the three weeks it will be here.
Usually, the team may have two months to repair between 2,500 and 3,000 of each for a brigade combat team.
"We'll be busy, but the way things are looking now, it shouldn't be a problem," he said, referring to the timeframe.
So far, Jackson said, both teams are off to a great start, and despite the hard work, he said it is important to remember why the job is so important.
"If it goes in the hands of Soldiers, it's our responsibility to make sure it's in good condition," he said. "It's a monumental task to get it done, and it's great for everybody."