34-year-old assault vehicle on it's way overseas - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

34-year-old assault vehicle on it's way overseas

January 6, 2006

Albany-- Albany's Marine Corps Logistics Base continues to lead the way when it comes to protecting troops overseas. Since 1999, the maintenance center at MCLB has worked hard to upgrade assault vehicles to make them more reliable and maintainable. Recently, one historic vehicle came in to be refurbished. It'll soon be on its way to Iraq.

34 years ago, the first amphibious assault vehicle rolled off the assembly line in California. Back then it was known as the P7. One Marine remembers sitting behind the wheel of what back then was a new and improved vehicle. Now, several upgrades and years later, he's playing his part in sending that piece of his own history into the current war.

Production on assault vehicles is a big priority at the Marine Corps Logistics Base, a process that takes several weeks. "This is the final stage of the program after the vehicle comes down the line. It comes out here. We put in the seals, the rubber, and the seatcovers and all the last minute stuff," says Program Manager Steven Rice.

Before the tractor goes to the field, Rice does a double check. "Walk through and make sure I check all the bolts, and bytes and windows and if there's anything that needs tightening or they might have missed," says Rice. He checks everything from the engine inside to the suspension on the outside of the vehicle. "We check to make sure the engine is all tight, everything's on there the way it's supposed to be, no leaks," says Rice, "It's amazing the suspension on this one compared to what we used to have."

You can call Steven an expert on what used to be. "I've been on this vehicle for over 34 years in one way or another. I was in the Marine Corps for 14 years," says Rice. Now as a program manager, he's waited years for the very first production vehicle to come into his hands, the P001.

"There were 900 vehicles built in '72 and this one is number one so it's a real bit of history that we're proud of," says Rice. In 1972, he was actually one of the first people to drive what was then known as the P7 onto the ramp at Camp Lejeune, a big difference from the P5's he was used to.

"It was like getting a brand new toy. For us it was amazing. We were used to big and bulky but we got fast and light," says Rice. For Steven it plays a part in his own history but with recent upgrades it will serve as protection for current servicemen and women.

"We've got an updated vehicle for the war fighter and we can actually do something for him that makes us proud inside this building," says Rice. It's a proud feeling but also bittersweet to see it go. "Yeah this one especially, because it's never been in harm's way and to think of it actually going into harm's way, being the first vehicle off the line, that's hard to do. It was hard for me to let that one go," says Rice.

But he knows it's going into good hands. It's coming from someone who knows it's history and gave it the o.k. to leave.

These vehicles have a life of about 50 years. The maintenance center has produced about 700 assault vehicles. New improvements include a 525 horsepower engine, transmission improvements and a new bradley suspension system. P001 will soon be shipped to Iraq. It should run its first combat mission there in May.

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