By David Ruderman, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade Public AffairsApril 25, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (April 25, 2012) -- A two-man team working in a tent here has saved the Army more than $7 million over the past 18 months by charging batteries for re-use.
But now that American forces have departed Iraq and the bulk of associated retrograde operations are winding down, the time has come to pull the plug on the Hawker Battery program.
The shop received its last deliveries from the field March 18, and will be out of business by the end of April.
"It's pretty much mission complete," said Michael Rogers, a turbine engine mechanic from Anniston Army Depot, Ala., who has served as the Hawker Battery project lead from its inception.
"Part of the equipment is going to OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) to help them get a handle on their operations up there. Part of it's going to be divided up here in Kuwait. They're going to disperse it out to the units. It's unit-level maintenance," he said.
The Hawker Battery program is structured as a cost-savings operation of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command that receives, inspects, services, exchanges and disposes of non-mission capable wheeled and tactical vehicle batteries, and revitalizes them to a fully recharged and fully mission capable status in support of all units in Southwest Asia, said Michael Cohorst, quality assurance officer with Army Field Support Battalion-Southwest Asia.
"When we started this project we had an excess of about 10,000 batteries here in Kuwait," said Rogers. "You could call it a wartime situation. A lot of the units didn't have the equipment you need to recover these batteries."
For an individual unit to handle such a high volume of recharging it would have needed the proper equipment and the time to do it right, and that was simply not the case as American forces rolled out of Iraq.
"The amount of rolling stock coming through here was tremendous," said Rogers. "It's actually an offline operation that became established for a mission to handle a problem that came up. Now that the volume is under control they should be able to handle it."
The Hawker mission got rolling Dec. 1, 2010, at Camp Arifjan, said Rogers. He has teamed up as a duo with a series of assistants along the way, working with 36 PulseTech HD Pallet Charger recharging units. Each unit recharges 12 batteries at a time. Since getting started, the Hawker team has received 29,610 units, of which they had tested 28,160 through the middle of March.
"This was a challenge because it was never done on this scale before," said Rogers. "That's what they're running into in Afghanistan. They do have equipment, but what they have is single-battery chargers and it's just not enough to meet their demand."
The Camp Arifjan team recovered 54 percent of the inventory on hand. Each battery costs the government slightly more than $400, and that adds up when they are disposed of in the tens of thousands.
In total, the program has saved the government $7,023,133, said Cohorst, the quality assurance officer.
"What we did for the Army was put together a full circle for the batteries," Rogers said. "Plus, it takes care of your excess inventory. There are no excess batteries on Arifjan, where there used to be 10,000 to 20,000."
To be returned to the active inventory, each battery must meet two criteria: It must meet a crank-and-amp requirement, and a voltage requirement.
"When it won't meet those, it goes out on a recycling contract," said Rogers. "Either way, the Army gets paid."
As the program approached the goal of putting itself out of business, the charging units have been slated for recycling or transfer to missions where they can deliver a similar effect. Rogers said he has sent 16 of his 36 pallet chargers to units in Afghanistan. Several more will follow and the balance will be turned over to units in Kuwait to be distributed around the region.
"It's busy, lifting 88 pounds all day," said Steven D. Morris, a machinist from Anniston who will be the last to serve as Rogers' assistant before the program closes out. "I wouldn't want to do it for 18 months, but it's something new to learn."
"We're on one of them 'other duties as assigned'," Rogers, said, smiling.