Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MCB HERCULES Team Gets Tank Retriever Out In Record Time

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The Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Lift and Excavating System, or the M88A2, is capable of towing four M-1A2 Abrams tanks at once or lifting 70, 000 pounds of dead weight straight in to the air. In the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, it can be completely sealed and driven through the use of video monitors mounted on the rugged chassis.

HERCULES is also a major project at Maintenance Center Barstow, keeping a 19-man crew busy year-round rebuilding and upgrading the massive vehicle.

Dave White, the program supervisor for the M88A2 project at MCB, said the need for the HERCULES by the Marine Corps increased dramatically very recently. “We moved in to Afghanistan, which had very rocky and mountainous terrain with lots of broken vehicles, such as MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) and M1A2 tanks and no way to recoup them unless you use the HERCULES; that’s why this is such a vital piece of equipment for the Marines.”

The HERCULES line was not just given to MCB. “We earned our line through proof,” White said. “That means showing Headquarters Marine Corps that we can get these things in and out when we say we can.”

The contract production schedule for a single M88A2 calls for a 180-day completion rate. Using the recently instituted single-piece flow method at MCB, White said his team blew that schedule out of the water with 156 days, 145 days, and even a 140-day completion rate.

The timeline of the Barstow team caught the attention of some important Marine Corps officers. “We are about a month ahead of schedule, which actually opened the eyes of the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Brig. Gen. James Kessler (Commanding General, Marine Corps Logistics Command), who were both here,” White said. “They were both extremely interested.

“Right now we’re producing six a year,” he continued. “We’re expecting to get more M88A2s to work on because of the shortage on the (tactical operations equipment) list for the Marine Corps for this vehicle in the field.”

In the hands of experienced and knowledgeable workers, the right production plan really speed the process along. “If they stick to the letter of the single piece flow method process, which is just a sequential execution of the work load from A to Z, anybody can step in and do this work because of the way it’s laid out in the process,” White said.

Heavy mobile equipment mechanic David Graham, a Barstow native, calls the HERCULES one of the biggest projects he has worked on at MCB. “This is the largest vehicle we produce in terms of hydraulics, complexity and weight of the finished product,” Graham said.

Robert Crownover, a team leader and native of Monterey, Calif., said the HERCULES is certainly one of the most challenging projects with which he has been involved. “Everything on this is hard, it doesn’t always go the way you want it to,” he said. “You have to have a lot of knowledge and experience to work on it. Everything on it is heavy.”

Former Air Force dependent David Merica, born at George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif., and heavy mobile equipment mechanic for 12 years, calls the HERCULES a versatile piece of equipment. “I like that it does virtually everything from refueling vehicles to towing the M-1 tanks,” Merica said.

As with so many other projects at MCB, working on the M88A2 project comes down to helping the warfighter accomplish the mission. “The main reason why this team likes working on this vehicle is because it’s a combat vehicle that has the sole purpose of saving Marines’ lives,” White said.

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