ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot, long known for its work bringing military equipment to like-new condition, is quickly gaining a reputation for building new military equipment.

As the depot wraps up one manufacturing program, the SPARK II mine roller, the installation is ramping up production on two others -- one to provide upgrades for the RG-31, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, and the other to manufacture bar armor.

Sending out SPARKs

Production of the SPARK II mine roller system began in March and is slated for completion this month.

The depot is fully assembling 270 mine rollers and is contracted to provide 90 parts kits for the SPARK II. These kits will contain all the mine roller components in a disassembled form, so replacement parts for rollers already in service can easily be retrieved and installed.

Patti Sparks, the process optimization manager for the Manufacturing, Cleaning and Finishing Value Stream in the Directorate of Production, said the mine rollers have been a top priority for her division, due to their need on the battlefield.

"We are doing everything we can to get the work completed," said Sparks. "Our division has borrowed employees from other work centers and some areas are working around the clock. The dedication and support of our workforce is amazing."

One area where that dedication is evident is in the component assembly shop, supervised by Barry Alverson.

There, a crane was moved from one end of the building to the other to facilitate another assembly line for the SPARK II.

"As our employees work through this program, they are striving to find the easiest and most efficient way to put it together," said Alverson.

The shop's employees designed supports to assist in the assembly process, holding each of the six wheel arms for each side of the roller.

But, the component shop is far from alone in its devotion to this program.

The cable shop is creating wiring harnesses for the SPARK II mine roller battery enclosure. This battery enclosure is a back-up system for the mine roller. It ensures the roller's hydraulics can be operated even if power from the vehicle is unavailable.

"Our shop has a small crew working on the mine roller program, but, the program has such a high priority that, at the end of each day, when our employees complete their work on other programs, they go to the mine roller area to work overtime on the wiring harnesses," said David McCluskey, supervisor for the Cable Repair Branch.

Depot employees also improved upon the original design, adding insulation to the battery posts to prevent shorts as well as sealing and labeling all wiring to keep out water and aid in repairs.

Ricky Bentley, branch chief for the Fabrication and Master Scheduling Division within the Directorate of Production Management, said the program would not have been possible in the time frame achieved if it had not been for the hard work of everyone involved -- from contracting and the depot's mailroom through the planners and schedulers to the employees on the shop floor.

Anniston's manufacturing capabilities gained attention last year when the depot was called upon to quickly create iron scrapes for use in a mine plow, according to Mitar Jovic, assistant acquisition manager at TACOM Life Cycle Management Command for the SPARK II mine roller program.

"Anniston was a great producer of the iron scrape, an enabler as we call them, so, we had confidence Anniston could produce the SPARK II program," said Jovic.

With the manufacturing work of this equipment comes a new label for ANAD. The depot is now the original equipment manufacturer for the SPARK II.

Hardware updates

A long-term program began in May to upgrade the MRAP, giving the vehicle additional mounts for cameras and antennae. With the depot slated to provide more than 900 kits to the Army, this program will extend well into the next fiscal year.

According to Brian Vice, a production controller for the Directorate of Production Management, the installation is ahead of schedule, as the products initially scheduled for June were completed and shipped in May.

"This is a winning team. Everyone has done a good job of planning and producing," said Vice.

According to Bentley, the upgrades are a response to the terrain many of the vehicles will travel through.

"The camera mounts will enable Soldiers to see in the high mountains better," said Bentley.

Raising the bar

Last week, the depot began work on a new upgrade program for bar armor to protect the Army's Husky vehicle.

The armor is designed to explode a projectile outside the vehicle, keeping it from piercing the vehicle's armor and ensuring the safety of the Soldiers.

Anniston's version of the bar armor is an upgraded variant of the type already in use on the Husky and the MRAP. It was developed, in part, by the men and women here.

Michael McCartney, a maintenance management specialist for the Fabrication and Manufacturing Division said the depot collaborated with engineers from the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to find the best way to create the bar armor based on drawings TARDEC supplied.

"We worked with one of our suppliers to extrude the steel used for the bar armor in the chevron pattern desired, so our machinists only have to cut it to length."

"The depot worked with the customers on this program," said Joe Lackey of the Directorate of Production's Manufacturing Division. "TARDEC sent us drawings and we talked to them about what would work and what wouldn't."

The current program calls for fabrication of 16 bar armor kits for Australia through a foreign military sales contract and 20 kits for the Army with the potential for additional work in the future.