CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE TAJI, Iraq — Soldiers with the 3666th Support Maintenance Company at Contingency Operating Base Taji, Iraq, rebuild Heavy Equipment Transporter systems to ensure the M-1070 HET tractors in Iraq are mission capable.
Project Phoenix began in October 2009, as a unit priority to support the 1483rd Transportation Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Staff Sgt. Terry L. Stallings, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Project Phoenix with the 3666th SMC, 541st CSSB, 15th Sust. Bde., 13th ESC, said the project has been a valuable learning experience for the Soldiers and a vital component to the 1483rd Trans. Co.mpany's success in Iraq.
"This is the Army's heavy hauler," said Stallings, a Buckeye, Ariz., native. "It hauls everything from [the M-1 Abrams main battle tank] all the way down to a Humvee. There's really not much these vehicles can't pull."
He said the HET systems have been hauling vehicles since the beginning of the war, and a majority of them have not been serviced in that time.
Spc. William L. Hemphill, a Project Phoenix team leader with the 3666th SMC, said it is his responsibility to ensure all of the tractors are inspected properly as soon as they enter the shop.
Spc. Bryan J. Laning, a Project Phoenix mechanic with the 3666th SMC, said after the vehicles have been inspected and the tractors have been taken apart, they wait for the parts to arrive and then reassemble the trucks when they receive them.
Laning, a Mesa, Ariz., native, said the mechanics make sure all of the fluids are topped off in the engine and the vehicle does not leak. Then they test the engine and test drive the vehicle.
"To make sure we didn't miss anything," he said.
Hemphill, a Chandler, Ariz., native, monitors man hours used for each vehicle, the road tests those vehicles undergo and when those tests are completed. He then takes the vehicle to maintenance control to be signed off by an outside inspector.
"Usual turnaround time on these vehicles is 45 to 60, days depending on the amount of work that needs to be done," he said.
The most common and lengthy delays occur when the mechanics must order and wait on parts, Laning said.
However, Stallings said other problems can occur during the process of rebuilding the tractors.
"It could be anything from a simple maintenance repair to a major overhaul," he said. "It really depends on the condition of the truck."
Stallings said their shop gets the worst of the worst and they do not release any vehicles until they are convinced they are ready to go.
"On average, we're pumping out about 1,200 to 1,400 man hours per truck ... spending about $66,000 on all man hours per truck," he said. "We're also spending about $120,000 on parts per truck."
Stallings said they have finished six HET systems since they started, out of the nine that needed repairs.
Hemphill said it is critical they do their job properly because lives depend on the functionality of these systems.
"The vehicles we're working on, I don't think I've seen one yet that is 10 years old," he said. "The wear and tear on these vehicles is pretty heavy. The vehicles are designed to pull the [M-1000 HET trailer], which is a [part of the] Heavy Equipment Transport system. It's a trailer that was designed to pull a 70-ton payload. They're the ones that are no longer mission capable and we bring them back to that standard or better."