By Capt. Scott KuhnOctober 6, 2019
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea - "An army marches on its stomach." This idiom, attributed to Napoleon, speaks to the importance of a well sustained force.
For a unit like 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division "Greywolf", the "stomach" is its fleet of vehicles maintained and ready to move at a moment's notice or to be transferred to the rotational unit that follows them.
Greywolf is reaching its 90 day mark of a nine month rotation to the Republic of Korea and although it brought most of its combat platforms with it, a large number of wheeled and tracked vehicles, communication and life support equipment comes from the Korean Enduring Equipment Set(KEES).
"There was a great deal of equipment and much of it has been passed from rotational brigade to rotational brigade every nine months," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Adelaide Borders, brigade maintenance technician. "That means we were inheriting equipment that had been ridden hard by previous units."
It also meant the operational readiness rate, or the percent of vehicles that can conduct sustained operations, was lower than normal.
"When we first arrived, the equipment we brought with us and downloaded off the boat, our tanks and Bradley [Fighting Vehicles], were at 99% operational readiness," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cerpico Arizala, maintenance technician, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. "Because of that we were able to focus more of our efforts on maintaining and fixing the vehicles already here.
"Priority is almost always going to combat platforms, so having ours at nearly 100% made all the difference in getting our KEES fleet from 60% to almost 90% in less than 3 months," he said.
Many of the maintenance technicians across the brigade faced similar issues, but also experienced unique problems. Challenges ranged from going directly into training early on, to a limited number of mechanics for the number of vehicles, to funding requirements.
"First thing we did was run everything through a 100% technical inspection," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Kremer, maintenance technician, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regt. "Everything we could drive, we ran through the bays and everything we couldn't, we did a full TI (technical inspection) where it sat."
Getting the parts necessary to fix and maintain the equipment is a foundational role in the maintenance program. The Supply Support Activity (SSA) is like a supply warehouse that processes orders and distributes parts and equipment.
"We made sure we had on hand the parts we were authorized, and as soon as we hit ground we focused on getting the shop up and running so we could service the customer and get them what they needed," said Warrant Officer Megan Brailey, Greywolf's SSA accountable officer. "When we hit ground we had over 1,000 picks (orders) waiting for us."
In the past 90 days, the SSA has processed over 22,000 documents and managed a rigid throughput, or time from order to pick up, for parts. The SSA stocks nearly 4,400 line item numbers. If they don't have a part on hand, the system processes the order and it's shipped.
Greywolf's ability to keep its throughput time low enabled mechanics to get the parts they need and have them installed timely, achieving its high OR rate.
"Greywolf is like no other," Brailey said. "ABCTs already have a high throughput, but Greywolf doesn't play any games. So, it's just making sure we keep up with the requisitions."
The brigade still has challenges to keep this fleet operational, especially as it faces year end fiscal constraints and a high training tempo that affects the brigade's organic equipment. However, the maintenance chiefs are confident that they will continue to be successful maintaining the high standard set by the brigade.
"Whenever you take over a fleet there's always going to be issues. You will most likely never get it to 100%, but I'm not concerned," Arizala said. "Overall, we were able to make our mission happen by conducting minor repairs on our equipment and by using what we brought with us. Now we have to maintain that. My goal is to hand it over to the next unit in the best condition possible."