ALBANY, GA (WALB) – In the early days of the Iraq War, it became clear U. S. troops were up to the task, but some of their equipment wasn't. Humvees and other vehicles offered little protection from roadside bomb attacks.
Workers at Maintenance Center Albany on the Marine Corps Logistics Base designed, produced, and installed armor kits for vehicles that saved countless lives. Their innovative, lifesaving work continues today as they fight the War from Home.
The Marine Corps Maintenance Center Albany has a Mobile Trauma Bay. Col. Terry Reid, Maintenance Center Commander calls it "A mechanized, armored, climate-controlled trauma center that goes right up behind the troops in warfare."
Reid is most proud of this fact. Normally, It would take the military 73 weeks to design and build a project as complex as the trauma bay. Albany workers completed the mission in just 11 weeks.
"We did that in 79 days. From the statement of work need being issued to the first Mobile Trauma Bay rolling out the door it was 79 days.
The Mobile Trauma Bay gives doctors a protected place to perform lifesaving surgery on severely wounded troops literally feet from the front lines instead of first evacuating them miles away to a mobile field hospital. Six bays are now deployed in Afghanistan saving lives.
"The civilian Marines know that what they do is important, and they're just looking for the next opportunity to do something great," said Col. Reid.
And they have found many such opportunities. "We weld these up from scratch," said Ronald Kinson, Fabrication Branch Manager.
These workers are making mine rollers that attach to the front of Humvees and other vehicles.
"It takes the blast from the IED before the trucks or Humvee gets to it, so it kind of absorbs the blast, and protects the troops," said Kinson.
Albany workers designed the first mine rollers. This is the second generation.
"A little bit more maneuverable, and it does a great job," said Kinson.
An average of one of these is blown up every day in Afghanistan. Right now, The Maintenance Center produces and ships about 40 mine rollers a month to Afghanistan, And they're ramping up to make even more.
Workers who aren't designing lifesaving new equipment or building something from the ground up, "We repair, rebuild, and modify all the ground combat and combat support equipment in the Marine Corps' inventory," said the colonel.
That's potentially more than 400 production lines, Everything from small firearms, to 7-ton trucks.
Workers break them down and rebuild them, Good as new. Sometimes even better than new. And they're all about efficiency.
"We started out ten months ago with two to five trucks a month. We're up to 22 a month now," said Medium Tactical Vehicle Project Leader Tim Davis.
The team in charge of this project meets every afternoon to talk about ways to improve and speed up their work.
Initially, One of these trucks would spend 90-days on this line. Now? "We're already down to around 45 to 50 days to get this truck totally through the repair cycle," sq aid Davis.
As important as the Maintenance Center is to the Marine Corps, It's just as important to south Georgia's economy. It employs more than two thousand people.
"I actually lost my job due to downsizing back in '07," said Kay Rowland, IT Specialist.
After Rowland was laid off from her job as a mortgage loan processor, She enrolled at Albany Technical College and entered the Maintenance Center's co-op program. Now, She's a full-time Information Technology Specialist here.
"I love my job. I love it completely. Wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
Heavy equipment mechanic Dun Bradford has a much different job, "We totally disassemble the whole vehicle."
But he has the same attitude. "We love being able to come here and do something that's going to contribute to our country."
It's an attitude the Colonel in charge of this facility says he sees every day, "It's an attitude of excellence."
From dedicated south Georgians determined to do everything they can to help fight the War from the Homefront. Not all those Civilian Marines work here on the Homefront. There's a constant rotation of workers deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Also, five mobile maintenance teams travel to all the Marine Reserve bases to make sure all their equipment is ready for Reservists when they show up for training.