FORT STEWART, Ga. – As you drive around post, you may realize that more and more military vehicles are starting to get harder to see - the tan HUMVEEs and Palletized Load Systems are being repainted in woodland camouflage.
This is due to the drawdown of forces in the Middle East and the increase in exercises in Europe.
Where does the Army go to get their vehicles “camo’d up?” They don’t go to any collision repair shop. They go to their installation’s maintenance paint shop.
The paint shop here has been very busy during the past year. Not only have they been repainting and touching up Fort Stewart’s vehicles, but they have also been repainting other vehicles with the woodland camouflage pattern to get them ready to be sent to Europe as part of the European Defense Initiative.
“We just finished repainting 35 HUMVEEs from Charleston, South Carolina, so they can be sent to Europe,” said Anthony Roberts, installation material maintenance officer, Installation Maintenance Division.
While the paint shop has been focusing on repainting the vehicles going to Europe, they also paint and touch up vehicles organic to the installation.
However, while many units may want their vehicles to have the new paint look, they have to be able to justify it.
In order to get a new paint job, the vehicle must have more than 25 percent paint damage. The damage can come from a variety of sources to include weather, rust, scrapes, and general wear and tear.
At Fort Stewart’s paint booth, it can take between one and a half to two and a half days to tape, apply a base coat, and then paint the camouflage pattern on the vehicles. The difference is due to the size of the vehicle.
To speed up the process, the paint shop is looking into getting an automated system that will allow them to quickly apply the camouflage pattern.
“Right now, we have to draw the camouflage pattern on by hand, so it takes time,” said Johnson.
When a vehicle is brought in to be repainted or touched up, it has to be washed at the paint booth’s hot wash rack and then sand blasted to remove the cosmoline from the vehicles.
“Cosmoline is applied to the vehicles to prevent rust and corrosion,” said James Kennedy, the lead automotive mechanic for the Fort Stewart paint booth. “If we don’t remove all of it, the paint will bubble up and come right off, so it slows the process down.”
Cosmoline was initially developed in the late 19th century as a pharmaceutical product designed to disinfect wounds and treat cuts and abrasions. However, the military soon realized that, when applied to vehicles and equipment, it also protected against rust and corrosion, so it has been using it for that purpose since the Spanish-American War.
Once the vehicle is clean, the painting process begins.
First, a base coat of black is applied, then the technicians go through and add the brown and green camouflage patterns.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that these vehicles are still camouflaged at night,” said David Maywood Jr., a veteran and Purple Heart recipient who now works as a contractor at the paint shop, as he mixed a bucket of black paint.
“We add chemicals to the paint to make the vehicles difficult to see with night vision goggles. I take this job very seriously,” Maywood said. I don’t want to be responsible for someone getting hurt or killed because I didn’t do my job.”