By Rick WoodApril 30, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - An operation of this scale has not been undertaken since the Vietnam War.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord Directorate of Logistics maintenance division chief Scott Shields said his division's team is responsible for successfully completing a historic year of repair and maintenance.
"It's truly an honor for me to be in the presence of a group of the most highly trained, competent, motivated and caring professionals I have ever worked with in over 37 years," Shields said.
The maintenance division played an integral role in the deployment of tens of thousands of Soldiers committed to the war-fighting effort.
However, their accomplishment is not about what was brought to the battlefield but, rather, what was left behind.
"The Soldiers leave here with their personal gear and a weapon and they get on a plane to go overseas," Shields said. "Then they fall in on whatever equipment that is assigned to them in the theater."
The vehicles and various mechanical devices that remain when the unit deploys are called "left-behind equipment," he said.
"We are now just finishing up on the largest maintenance effort that has ever been performed on equipment in the history of Fort Lewis," Shields said. "It's never been done before."
Dealing with left-behind equipment from the deployment of three Stryker brigades, the 17th Fires Brigade and I Corps was a Herculean undertaking, he said. From M-9 pistols to M-916 20-ton trucks, DOL has seen it all.
Throughout the past year, the maintenance division completed repairs and services on 252 artillery pieces, 8,821 wheeled vehicles, 303 chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear equipment pieces, 4,651 pieces of electronic and radio equipment, 9,060 weapons sights and night vision devices, and repaired 17,676 weapons.
"All of this was made possible by the shop supply section's ability to order and receive over 400,000 repair parts," Shields said.
Their tasking also included more than 1,200 pieces of equipment from Hawaii.
The hard work and dedication of the entire maintenance division truly defines what a team effort is all about, he said.
From skilled electricians, engine mechanics and weapons repairers to paint shop and body shop Department of the Army civilians and contactors, thousands of hours of work kept the equipment rolling.
However, not all of the equipment they've worked on is state-of-the-art, he said.
"We refurbished the two cannons that normally sit out in front of the Garrison Commander's headquarters and constructed from raw materials new cradles for them," Shields said.
Cast in the 1780s to arm Spanish forts in the Philippines, the cannons were brought back as trophies by U.S. Forces during the Spanish-American War.
Restoration meant cleaning and painting the two multi-ton artillery pieces and fabricating wooden cradles from scratch, he said.
"They used to shoot 24-pound steel balls at us, and now we've got the cannons," Shields said. "Sometimes, you never know what's going to come into our shops."
Even with high workloads, attention to detail is job number one, he said.
Weapons repairer Al Riddell said the people who work on small arms know the importance of doing the job right.
"We give it back to them in pretty nice shape," Riddell said. "It gets totally refurbished."
Weapons go from having cosmetic issues and mechanical problems to a like-new condition in the hands of repairers, he said.
"We clean where they can't clean," Riddell said.
Rick Wood is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.