ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - The mechanics, welders and other workers in the Bridge Assembly and Repair Branch have often braved the heat of summer and the cold of winter to work on the armored vehicle-launched bridge due to lack of space.

Because the bridge is built on a tank chassis and can weigh up to 70 tons, its size requires a large area and lots of overhead clearance for workers to maneuver the panels and parts into place. In previous years, as the shop shared space with others, those workers did most of the disassembly and reassembly work in open lots throughout the Nichols Industrial Complex.

This caused a number of problems since not only the workers, but the parts and equipment, had to go from the shop to the lot.

"When we were working on lot 102, we had 15 to 20 minutes of travel time for each panel," said Tommy Lee, supervisor for the bridge assembly and repair shop. "There were times when the whole shop would be over there tearing down a bridge or putting one back together."

With four panels on each bridge, that meant an hour of travel time alone for each bridge's parts.

The AVLBs are needed to span areas of water or chasms where no bridge exists and the depot's repair shop builds them in two designs - 60 and 70 tons.

With need for the tracked vehicles increasing, Lee's workers have a shop to call their own and have been setting it up to suit repair and assembly work.

There is room, and enough overhead clearance, to take apart each bridge as it is brought into the building. There is also space for welding and an area for repair and inspection. Workers have yet to check the clearance for reassembly, but hope to do so in the next few weeks.

"Hopefully, everything will be able to be done in-house," said Mark LaShall, lead man for the shop, adding that a machining area is also in the plans.

Prior to the move, with the time needed to move parts and personnel to the lots for disassembly and reassembly, only four or five bridges could be done each month. In February, as their new shop becomes fully operational, eight AVLBs are planned and the workload is expected to grow.