Albany base making armor kits for Marines; Army says they need more - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany base making armor kits for Marines; Army says they need more

December 8, 2004

Albany- Disgruntled U.S. troops complained directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday that they don't have all the equipment they need.

Rumsfeld was in Kuwait to give a pep talk to soldiers headed to Iraq. But he got a talking to about Humvees by Tennessee National Guard Specialist Thomas Wilson.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Wilson asked Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld responded that "you go to war with the Army you have..." and he said the problem is the military doesn't have the production capability to put armor on vehicles as quickly they'd like.

Those armor kits are being produced for the Marines in Albany.

Civilian employee Preston Hood may not be in a uniform, but he is helping with the war in Iraq.

"If I was young enough I'd go sign up and help them fight," Hood said. "But I'm in my 30's now, so I'm too old for that, so this is me doing my duty."

His duty at Albany's Marine Base is to pack up armor kits. The faster the pieces make it to the Middle East, the faster they can help protect Marines. Civilian workers are making more specialized armor kits for more than 2,600 marine Humvees.

"So now we're in the process and replacing the original kits," said Col. Peter Underwood, the commanding officer of MCLB Maintenance Center.

The new kits are tougher to build and harder install.

"So wherever it explodes, this will provide some degree of protection for the Marines inside," Underwood said.

The other Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Ca., is making replacement parts for existing kits until advanced ones are put on. The original armor kits had to be made fast. So about 80 new workers were hired and people worked around the clock.

"Initially, we were going 24 hours a day because our goal was to very quickly get some type of armor protection on every vehicle in Iraq."

Vehicles driven by Marines. The base also made about 300 kits for the Army, but haven't been asked to make any more. So the people at the base are doing all they can to protect the ones inside the armor.

"They're over there fighting for us and we can give them all we got," Hood said.

Although he may be far away from the battlefield, Hood knows every piece of steel he packs is playing a part in a war for democracy.

Posted at 10:22 p.m. By brannon.stewart@walb.com