By U.S. ArmyOctober 26, 2017
(Editor's note: The following article is part of a series of stories reprinted from TACOM or Army Tank Automotive Center (TACOM's predecessor) newsletters in 1967 in honor of the command's 50th anniversary. The terms "ATAC" and "TACOM" are interchangeable throughout this series. This story ran in the October 1967 issue of "The Detroit Arsenal News.")
It is in no way an overstatement of the facts to say that the Liaison and Training Division of ATAC's Maintenance Directorate is staffed by teachers who dispense their knowledge at locations throughout the world in an operation over which the sun never completely sets.
The mission of the Liaison and Training Division is twofold and defined as: new equipment training and technical assistance training. The two missions tend to overlap and a fine line of distinction has to be drawn as to where one ends and the other begins. What it really boils down to is that the Division trains all U.S. military personnel and the personnel of Military Assistance Program (MAP) nations in the operation and maintenance of new or modified items of equipment introduced into the vehicle inventory system.
William Nagengast is Chief of the Division. His Deputy is Major Jose A. Hernandez. Nagengast oversimplifies when he says, "We teach and serve as technical assistance advisers and bring them here to our school or, in overseas cases, take the school to them."
The case as stated by the Division Chief minimizes what obviously is one of the most important functions of any organization under the Department of the Army.
The Liaison and Training Division has an authorized strength of 276, which is more than 50 percent of the authorized work force of the entire Maintenance Directorate. The military numbers 65 in the strength authorization and makes up almost the complete staff of the Mobile Maintenance Technician Branch.
Raphael Van Alphen is Branch Chief. He has three military officers working with him and his staff of instructor- advisors all hold the rank of Staff Sgt. E 6 or above. The branch also has 16 civilians who often travel and work in teams with their military counterparts.
These are the men on the move. If they are not on travel instructing or advising, usually at some overseas command base or unit facility, they are enroute to such an assignment or undergoing some type of operational or technical assistance t raining here at the Division's New Vehicle Training School to make them ready for a TDY assignment.
Currently 16 are on assignment with an additional 10 slated to leave on various new equipment or technical assistance training missions within 10 days.
The Field Maintenance Technician Branch finds its Chief, Richard Nierescher, conducting business with his people on a long distance basis, for the most part. Most of the Field Maintenance Technician Branch people are relative strangers to the arsenal facilities. On those occasions that they are here the reason for it is some type of training course they are attending at the New Vehicle Training School.
Normally they are PCS-permanent change of station-people. This means they are on the ATAC payroll but assigned to a CONUS post, camp or station or on a temporary duty assignment at an overseas post.
Presently 32 Field Maintenance Technician Branch civilians are authorized for Vietnam. Other overseas assignments include: 26 in Korea, 19 in Germany, 2 in Thailand, 2 in Greece, 1 in Panama, 1 in Okinawa, and 1 in Japan. In addition 69 others work out of CONUS posts, camps and stations at 33 sites in 19 states.
Uhro Ollila's staff in the New Vehicle Training Branch could be described as the teaching group that has the big job of keeping a close watch on the development of new vehicular equipment, coordinating with Department of Army elements on all phases of new vehicle development and conducting training classes for key Department of the Army personnel on the new equipment in anticipation of its delivery to the troops.
The Division's new Equipment Training Program Manager, George Larowski, has defined the main function of new equipment training as, "The orderly transfer of operational and maintenance skills from the developer Command (AT AC) to the user."
Essentially the Branch is the link between the manufacturer and the customer. The Branch develops the training programs on operational and maintenance techniques peculiar to the new item of equipment. The Branch conducts classes for the ATAC instructor-advisors in the Mobile Maintenance Technician and Field Maintenance Technician Branches. The personnel of these Branches then move out on assignments to instruct key training personnel at field units and posts, camps and stations. At the same time training personnel from Continental Army Command (CONARC) service schools are brought to ATAC to take the intensive training courses conducted by the new Vehicle Training Branch. The object of all this activity is to have a nucleus of .trained people waiting at military bases when newly introduced equipment arrives.
In a discussion of what the liaison and Training Division does and more specifically why it has to be done, Major Hernandez put his finger on it with the observation that "New improved items of vehicular equipment for the troops are of little value without trained instructors on hand who know the equipment and can tell the troops how to operate and maintain it."