News: Sandblast Shop saves the Corps thousands of dollars
Story by Lance Cpl. Norman Eckles
MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - When looking at a revamped product from Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, the outcome of a vehicle is flawless from the inside-out; however, have you ever wondered what the vehicle looked like before it was painted?
Employees who work in the Sandblast Shop, know exactly how they look. The men in the shop are responsible for preparing the equipment for the Paint Shop and have recently found cost-efficient, environmentally friendly ways to complete their much needed mission.
The sandblasting process is simple: the vehicles are brought into the bay area and blasted with tiny pieces of crushed rock, known as garnet, eliminating paint and corrosion, explained Jason Depue, who’s worked in the Sandblast Shop for eight years.
“The process of sandblasting creates a white metal finish so the paint adheres to the metal,” said Christopher Ware, the sand blast leader.
The shop uses steel, garnet, acrylic or water to blast equipment, depending on the different types of metals, such as titanium, aluminum or steel, explained Ware.
Any big pieces of equipment such as mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles or amphibious assault vehicles take two shifts, 18 hours, to complete. Small pieces, like trailers can take 4 to 5 hours, Depue added.
“We utilize five bays which are used to sandblast the equipment,” said Depue.
The north and south bays are only large enough for one worker, but, the east, west and a bay known as the dungeon are large enough for two people, thus reducing the time of sand blasting the equipment, which saves money.
“The process used to take 50 hours, now it only takes 18 hours,” explained Ware.
Ware further explained the sandblasters experimented with different ways to sandblast each vehicle. They found sandblasting from the inside-out was the most effective way and the most cost efficient.
The sandblasters use two automated machines to strip the paint off their armory. The rotary blaster and the tumbler help reduce manual labor, and each machine can handle multiple pieces of equipment at a time, explained Ware.
“You can have a worker put multiple parts into the machines then (simultaneously) walk over to the bays and blast an MRAP,” said Ware.
Ware explained the shop has improved its garnet and is saving the Marine Corps $73,000 a year. The garnet PPB now uses takes off more paint than the old garnet and can be recycled three to four times before it needs to be replaced.
Recycling the garnet for further use is one method these men use while being good stewards of the environment.
The garnet travels through multiple air filters and then blows into an air wash where the sand is blasted back down into the main hopper, holding the sand until its reused, explained Depue.
In addition to recycling their garnet, the Sandblast Shop has become a model for and environmentally friendly operation.
“When we leave our bays or we‘re not using equipment, we turn everything off,” said Depue. “We used to turn on all the bays and machines when we first came into work. Now we wait until the equipment gets to our bay or machine to fire up our equipment.”
The employees at the Sandblast Shop work on 90 percent of the equipment that cycles through MDMC. Revamping their systems has enabled the Sandblasting Shop to continue their mission in a timely and cost efficient manner.
The job of a sand blaster is just one part of many needed to refurbish the thousands of military vehicles coming through MCLB Barstow.
The next time you find yourself admiring one of the seemingly flawless vehicles, keep in mind the countless hours of hard work the employees here put in.