CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – “We want to work ourselves out of a job,” said Rick Hunt of Newark, Ohio, Dec. 23., while standing inside the Stryker battle damage repair facility at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.
“When we don’t get damaged vehicles, it means people are going home in one piece,” said Hunt, General Dynamics Land Systems site manager in Qatar. He’s responsible for receiving, repairing and returning Stryker combat vehicles protecting U.S. Central Command war fighters.
A recent decrease in combat-damaged Strykers led to discussions about the fate of the repair facility at the U.S. military installation in Qatar. A new mission was needed to retain the forward-located team of experienced mechanics, welders and material controllers. In November, discussions between U.S. government and GDLS officials shifted the focus of the site to refurbishing, or “resetting,” worn out Strykers on battlefields.Strykers urgently needing the reset service were removed from combat operations and sent to Camp As Sayliyah. Recent shipments of the light-armored combat vehicle contained a mixture of eight Stryker variants: infantry carrier (most common), mortar carrier, medical evacuation, engineer support, fire support, command, reconnaissance and anti-tank guided missile vehicles.
“The vehicles we received are the oldest in the Stryker fleet,” said Hunt. “They spent most of their ‘lives’ in battle – they look nasty first getting here.” Strykers were introduced to combat in 2003, but several were constructed as early as 2001, he said. Many vehicles had missed regularly scheduled reset dates by two years, due to operational requirements and unit transitions.
The vehicles we received are the oldest in the Stryker fleet. They spent most of their ‘lives’ in battle – they look nasty first getting here.
“We intend to do a reset-plus on each vehicle,” said Hunt, “taking them beyond reset requirements.” Reset procedures consist of completing annual service tasks, installing upgrades, steam cleaning, as well as removing and servicing all hydraulic pumps, wheel drives and gears. At the Qatar site, Strykers are also repainted, inside and out, to give passengers an increased sense of security and comfort.
An onsite warehouse of nearly 4,000 parts fuels a fast turnover tempo. Mechanics have immediate access to nuts, bolts, drive trains, shocks, transmitions – if something is not available, a forward-repair area in Iraq typically provides it within two days, said Hunt. If not, parts are expedited from a logistics center in the United States.
“The hardest thing to do is getting everyone to slow down,” said Hunt, who’s pleased by the enthusiasm in the facility. “They are used to ripping Strykers apart to repair battle damage.” He said extensive damage in combat requires roughly 60 days for repairs, but a basic reset is accomplished in 10 days: one day prepping, two days welding, one day for suspension and preassembly, then the remaining time spent in assembly and road testing. A quality assurance and control supervisor inspects the entire process as it unfolds.
The hardest thing to do is getting everyone to slow down. They are used to ripping Strykers apart to repair battle damage.
“This vehicle will grow based on what we have learned on the battlefield,” said Malcom Monroe, a senior wheel vehicle mechanic from Deridder, La. “The reset Strykers all have common stress fractures, broken bolts and bent brackets. The engineers are learning which areas need to be beefed up.” Damage trends made slat armor a required addition for each vehicle in 2003, he said. The cage armor wraps around the hull to protect occupants from chemical-energy rounds, such as rocket-propelled grenades.“I have zero disciplinary issues with my team,” said Hunt. “They just want to work and have proven their flexibility. Most of us here either have family in the military or served in the military ourselves. Everyone is motivated to send out a product they would put their own children in, or get into themselves.”
On Dec. 21, the Qatar site’s first four refurbished Strykers were returned to troops in Iraq.