By Aubrey LoveFebruary 4, 2016
FORT SILL, Okla., (Jan. 16, 2016) -- Tools, toys and large cannons are the making of a great man cave, and such a lair can be found right on Fort Sill at the artifact restoration shop just behind the Army Field Artillery Museum.
"It's the best job I've ever had," said Zane Mohler, museum exhibits specialist. Mohler is the sole employee, with an on-again, off-again staff of three or four volunteers. Almost all artifact restorations are done here, with a few special parts parceled out to the Logistics Readiness Group and other talent here.
This isn't just a job for Mohler, who has been the position since 2009. It's also a hobby.
"I have also restored old gum-ball machines, pedal cars, signs, etc.," he said. "A few years ago, my wife told me to get a hobby, so I bought an old  Jeep and completely restored it in about 15 months."
Mohler and his volunteer team are moving the air defense artillery exhibit out of a tent to an interim building until a permanent structure is built. At the same time, they are also working on a new World War I diorama in the field artillery museum.
"We are just waiting on parts to come in and work on them as they arrive," said Mohler, who is mostly self taught or learned his art on the job.
While a few artifacts are on loan from private collectors, most come from the Center of Military History warehouse in Anniston, Alabama.
"They have a shopping list and check what will fit our storyline," Mohler said. "Sometimes we just stumble across things while working on other projects."
He was lucky enough to acquire "the" Pack 75 howitzer with Serial Number 001. Later designated the M116, the Pack 75 was designed in the 1920s so that it could be broken down into pieces and loaded onto pack animals to maneuver over difficult terrain.
Mohler said it was the easiest project to restore for the museum because of its simplicity in design and the fact that the museum already had a fully-functional model to go by. The most difficult, on the other hand, was a German air defense artillery cannon called "jaboschreck." The challenge was that all plates, diagrams and parts were written in German.
"The first thing we had to do was interpretation on all that," said Mohler, adding that the team had to understand German World War II engineering. The parts were similar to those on American weapons but were built or constructed differently.
Nevertheless, the team put it back together in full working order.
Not only do the artillery pieces represent a period in history, they also reflect the hard work and skill of the people tasked to restore them to at least a facsimile of their functional status. And, as with those who are passionate about their work, Mohler or the volunteers will be happy to tell you all about it.