Industry-Military Collaborations Necessary to Reset Fatigued Force

By Grace V. Jean

xMONTEREY, Calif. — It’s the million-dollar question. When the combat-fatigued trucks in Iraq and Afghanistan finally return to depots in the United States to be revamped, what will the Army and Marine Corps do with them?

The answer is something that depot commanders already are wrestling with, and some are looking to the past for clues into the future.

“We train for the last war, and through association, we tend to equip for that last conflict as well,” says Col. Scott Dalke, depot commander of the Marine Corps Maintenance Center in Barstow, Calif.

At the NDIA tactical wheeled vehicles conference, he presented a slide with two photos: one taken in January 1991 of the 18th Airborne Corps main command post convoy staged for movement, about 24 days before Operation Desert Storm; the other taken in March 2003 of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade, one week after the first ground forces crossed into Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Though snapped more than a decade apart, both photos captured nearly identical vehicles ready to roll into combat.

After Desert Storm, the Defense Department trained and equipped its forces for another Desert Storm, and it did it well, he says.

When troops deployed to Iraq in 2003, they expected to meet similar challenges to what they faced in the first Gulf War.

“But it was the unknown future missions — in this particular case, countering the IED threat — that was really the million-dollar question, which we were not able to answer back in post-Desert Storm,” he points out.

As in past wars, a certain percentage of the equipment being used in Iraq and Afghanistan will flow through the depots to be reset for the next conflict. “But here’s the key: our depots can only be successful if we’re partnered with industry today to understand that current equipment and technology,” he says.

There are civilian contractors at his depot who have trained with the Marines and who have deployed to Iraq to support those Marines. These partnerships have enabled the depot to build a “core of competency” so that when trucks, like the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, return from battle, the depot can commence work immediately. It also will allow him to resource properly for that reset to meet future uncertainties, he says.

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Topics: Land Forces

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