RED RIVER ARMY DEPOT, Texas – Even before August 9, 1941, Red River Army Depot was an extraordinary place.
The story of Red River begins in 1939 when Robert Maxwell and four members of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce were tasked with securing some of the growing defense funding for the local area. Maxwell worked closely with Senator Morris Sheppard, also a Texarkana native, to influence the selection of the Texarkana Ordnance Depot (first official name).
“We were thinking in terms of a wartime plant that would employ a few hundred people for the duration of the war and then shut down once treaties were signed,” Maxwell said during a 1985 interview.
Just a small wartime plant was the furthest thing from what would take place.
Instead, the committee would later find out that an Army installation would be placed in Bowie County and would continue operating well after World War II.
In March 1941, another unprecedented event happened when Maj. Sidney Gruneck designed the depot on a piece of scratch paper. Shortly after, Gruneck directed his team to create official drawings from his free-hand pencil sketch. Those drawings were later accepted by defense planners in Washington.
Within months, over 22,000 construction workers arrived to start building the Red River Ordnance Depot.
Defense planners would soon recognize the dedication and unparalleled support Red River personnel provided. Shortly after its beginning in 1941, Red River added tank repair and general storage supply to its mission.
In 1946, the depot was assigned the responsibility of storing combat vehicles returned from the war. Over 58,000 vehicles were stored on the depot and is believed to be one of the largest numbers ever stored at one installation.
In 1949, Col. Selby H. Frank, depot commander, was informed by Washington officials that it would be impossible for his installation to rebuild 50 M-43A tanks in one month. As predicted, employees in the depot’s production shops did not turn out 50 tanks; instead, they stunned the administration by producing 68 tanks.
That’s the way it has been at Red River Army Depot for eight decades. The team constantly takes on new challenges and continues to exceed expectations.
After exceeding at tank repair, the defense department called on Red River to host an Ordnance Unit Training Center. The center brought 12,000 soldiers through its doors during World War II and the Korean War.
Simultaneously during the Korean War, Red River’s ammunition employees shipped 418,000 tons of ammunition. The depot’s reliability was demonstrated again during the late 1950s when it did not make a single late ammunition shipment.
The depot continued excelling becoming the first depot to reclaim M26 hand grenades. The team even maintained an outstanding safety record while performing the reclamation work.
By now the Army knew they could turn to Red River to fix or build anything. That fix or build anything attitude soon earned the maintenance facility a new nick name – “The Shop with a Thousand Missions.”
In 1953, Red River took on another major task by adding rubber products to its mission. Known today as home of the M1 road wheel, the rubber products facility is responsible for the removal of worn rubber from unserviceable track and road wheels. Since its inception, the rubber products facility has produced nearly three million track shoes and over 700,000 road wheels.
The 1970s introduced another large maintenance responsibility for the depot when the team began a program to convert the M113 armored personnel carrier from gasoline to diesel power. The project earned the maintenance shop a new nick name – “Carrier Capital of the World.”
The depot’s hard work on the M113 led to rebuilding both the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System (BFVS) and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) in the 1980s, two vehicle systems that still remain prominent at the depot today.
As the depot marched into the 1990s, the supply mission transferred to the Defense Logistics Agency making the supply function a tenant on the installation. The late 1990s also brought change as the ammunition mission transferred to the Supply Operations Command.
Though change was inevitable, the depot was still hard at work. In the early 2000s, Red River began rework on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). By 2007, the depot had already celebrated producing its 10,000th HMMWV. Depot team members continued their track at being “Committed to Excellence” and in 2012, the team was capable of producing up to 40 HMMWVs per day.
Today, Red River’s mission is to sustain the Warfighter’s combat power by providing ground combat and tactical systems sustainment maintenance operations. Though it is a long way from the first mission in 1941, the depot remains the backbone of our nation’s defense.
Red River Army Depot currently serves as the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for a long list of vehicle platforms including, the HMMWV; the BFVS; the MLRS; the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT); the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS); the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET), just to name a few.
The depot also conducts overhaul, rebuild and reset work on an extended list of other assets and components.
Red River is home to eight million square feet of floor space, occupies over 15,000 acres and houses more than 1,400 buildings. The depot is also the host installation to 16 tenant organizations, including the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution – Red River.