by Jack Adamyk, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow
April 23, 2018
Thousands of Marine Corps assets come through Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., every year and every piece that comes in and out of the base, goes through Strip 8, not once but twice.
“We have eighteen guys working over there, eight of whom are mechanics,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Silkowski, director of Fleet Support Division, Marine Forces Storage Center. “They’re the tip of the spear for our organization.”
This tenant command resides on the Yermo Annex aboard MCLB Barstow, and occupies 12.2 million square feet, or 28 acres on which those thousands of assets are stored.
“The majority of what we do here is fixing things,” said Vincent Boaz, supervisor of Distribution Facilities. “About eighty percent of what we do is repair, while the other twenty percent is preservation.”
Preservation is done in stages and levels. Upon initial intake, explained Deshawn Phillips, preservations specialist, vehicles are preserved and drained of specific fluids before being transported to Production Plant Barstow for rebuilding those assets which were heavily damaged.
January 19, 2018 - Desawn Phillips, Heavy Equipment Mobile mechanic with U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Support Division's Strip 8, explains the preservation process on a M777 Howitzer Canon on the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California. Strip 8 employees are seasoned mechanics who are responsible for incoming and outgoing vehicle inspections, to ensure quality products for all Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jack Adamyk, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow)
“Level A preservation is for long-term storage,” said Dan Lavoie, Strip 8’s planner who has worked for MCLB Barstow for 35 years. “Level B preservation, also called ‘Drive On/Off ’ is when the vehicle is in drivable condition and prepared for shipment to the fleet. Then Level R is ‘Rollback’ condition when they are preserved for transport from using units to us.”
As opposed to having artisans who specialize in one specific area of maintenance, repair and preservation, the Strip 8 staff are trained to work on several different types of equipment.
“No day is the same for that crew,” Silkowski said. “One day they may be through-putting Humvees and LVSs, then the next day it might be AAVs, LAVs and the 777s, and another day it may be tractors, water and fuel pumps. These guys do all of it and they’re the first and last to touch things before they go out to the fleet. The end goal is to make sure we are sending quality product to the Marine fleet.”
A single M777 Howitzer costs approximately $2.5 million, explained Boaz. With millions of dollars on the line, the High Desert offers a nearly ideal climate for storage, Silkowski explained.
“The number one enemy of storing this equipment is UV light,” Silkowski said. “It will corrode hydraulic hoses, tires, and so forth.”
“On the 777, we address the critical surfaces first,” Boaz explained. “The barrel is wrapped, inside and out, with a volatile corrosive inhibitor, then overwrapped with a black vinyl. Data plates are covered to prevent sun degradation. Although for motor vehicles, fuel and motor oil are drained and replaced with preservation oil; hydraulic equipment will maintain hydraulic fluid otherwise it would impede transport and degrade faster.”
Proper storage of equipment is essential to ensure that Marines in theater can operate them safely and accurately.
"777s have to be perfectly calibrated," Silkowski said. "If it's not maintained in perfect calibration and alignment, then when the Marines shoot them, it may appear like they are shooting straight, but the impact of the round will be diverted. Even slight deviation over eighteen miles can be disastrous, and people can be injured or killed. So the depot-level artisans put forth a lot of effort in rebuilding these assets to specifications, and then it's our responsibility to ensure that they are maintained in perfect condition, and preserved to ensure that they stay that way."
Phillips, who has worked for MCLB Barstow for 13 years, takes great pride in his preservation duties.
“What I do is important and I know that,” he said. “I take this seriously. We don’t want Marines to wait, so the equipment has to be ready for operation as it is preserved. Production Plant Barstow makes sure the equipment is perfect, then it comes back to us and we take it to the next level. For instance, the optics parts of the gun are used to sight in on the enemy and are essential parts. We take special care to wrap them in micro-foam, then black vinyl. We coat some parts with CLP (cleaner, lubricant, protectant) first.”
They take every precaution careful to ensure the equipment remains field ready, Phillips explained.
“There is no such thing as too much protection,” Philips said. “We use good quality artillery grease, and a special coating now for the tires too because the sun can really damage the rubber on tires. We touch every part of each piece of equipment, from top to bottom.”
Tony Perez, Heavy Equipment Mobile mechanic, pointed out various aspects of the Humvees that receive special attention.
“We use a talc on the weather seals for the doors so that when the sun beats down on these, it doesn’t cause the seals to stick, making it hard to open the doors,” he said. “We touch up rust spots and make sure those are coated. Hinges and springs get lubricated. We even verify coolant temperatures.”
“One of our goals is to extend the shelf life for the fleet,” Boaz said. Their primary goal to ensure that they send out well maintained and preserved equipment that can be shipped and brought online in short order, ensuring the safety of Marines in the field.