ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - - To Army technical writers, putting together equipment manuals is routine, but writing manuals on foreign weapons is another story - - one with plenty of plot twists and turns.

The TACOM Life Cycle Management Command Rock Island's Weapons Product Support Integration Directorate recently completed a depot level technical manual to be used by the Iraqi army at the Taji National Depot, Taji, Iraq, for overhaul and repair of the AK-47 rifle. The TND is a maintenance and supply depot which supports Iraqi equipment readiness.

"We have experience with standard weapons, and our Taji counterparts felt that we'd have the best ability to build a depot type manual for foreign weapons," said Tom Tkatch, associate director of the Weapons PSID.

Because the TACOM team has been working on a series of the same type of manuals for the United States Army Special Operations Command, they were suited for the task, he said.

"We're fortunate, because for the USSOCOM mission some of the manuals were pretty much done, and we used information from that community," said Cliff Gerich, team leader.

The team started its manual on the AK-47 rifle last January and finished a draft in six weeks. Depot overhaul of the weapons is slated to begin this month at Taji, and contractors there will use the manuals to train weapons maintainers, Tkatch said.

Tkatch explained that the biggest challenge was been getting weapons to tear down in order to write the overhaul and repair procedures.

"You can't just wander down to the local hardware store or gun shop and buy a genuine Soviet rifle or Iraqi rifle. So we've had to borrow weapons from USASOC," he said

Noting that up to 19 different countries have been licensed to make the AK-47 rifle, equipment specialist Matt Williams said that any of the countries may have changed the design.

The Taji manuals team didn't have a manufacturer it could turn to for help in finding out how the weapon was put together, so team members learned how to repair the gun on their own, Tkatch explained.

"We're going to give them a means in the manual to identify the country the weapon came from, because when maintainers are cross-leveling parts, we want them to use like-countries of origin," said Williams.

Because parts for AK-47 variations are not available, procedures in the manual include swapping good parts for bad, said Tkatch.

"If you've got a Tabuk rifle that's broken, we recommend that equipment maintainers find another one that's broken and swap the parts back and forth so they maintain a good weapons platform," he said.

Tkatch explained that the manual will not allow maintainers to certify the weapons at Taji at the same level as an Army standard depot-level repair manual because of the lack of replacement parts, measurements and specifications.

"They are going to get functional weapons out of this," said Williams. "They're going to do controlled parts substitutions."

To Steve Pheiffer, a technical writer in the Logistics Integration Directorate, all of this boils down to writing the maintenance procedures correctly. "I need to make sure I understand how to repair the gun so readers will understand," he said.

The team has been asked to write six more manuals by the end of the year on pistols, machine guns, launchers and sniper rifles, Tkatch said.

Due to time constraints, illustrations will consist of photos, explained Brooke Walsh, technical writer, who took the AK-47 photos for the manual.

"Usually in manuals we use line drawings. For this project, there's just not enough time to create the drawings," she said.

Praising the team's efforts, Tkatch said that each member overcame the challenges involved in writing the AK-47 manual.

"They have made something come out of nothing. If it weren't for their skills and their experience, we wouldn't have been able to finish the first manual, he said.