News: Soldiers explore Stryker facility at Qatar base
Story by Dustin Senger
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — "You're here to see what this Stryker facility does each day for the war fighter," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Peter Butts, 1st Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade commander, while addressing over 20 of his soldiers and civilians inside the Stryker battle damage repair facility at Camp As Sayliyah, Sept. 21. "The teamwork going on within this organization is incredible," said Butts, referring to the surrounding General Dynamics Land Systems' workforce.
For over six years, Stryker armored combat vehicles have protected U.S. Central Command forces from enemy engagement. Strykers offer troops a mobile, versatile, heavily-equipped and adaptive personnel carrier. The vehicles are capable of carrying troops through paved streets or rough off-road terrain. Most variants travel with well over 20 tons of armor, mechanical parts, weaponry systems and life-saving equipment.
GDLS contractors have been repairing battle-damaged Strykers at the U.S. military installation in Qatar since 2005. In December 2008, the facility started accepting vehicles desperately needing maintenance after suffering through numerous troop rotations. Typically a 10-day process, reset procedures return worn out vehicles to current configurations. The site recently extended its capabilities to meet urgent retrofitting requirements; critical adaptations intended to better protect occupants on today's battle field.
"Repairing battle damage is our primary mission," said Rick Hunt, from Newark, Ohio, while welcoming the 1-401st AFSB soldiers and civilians into the facility. Hunt is the GDLS site manager at the Qatar base. He is in charge of almost one hundred GDLS contractors, a consortium of individuals contributing various technical skills throughout 12-hour shifts, six days per week. The collection of talent offers the only site capable of repairing, resetting and retrofitting Strykers in Southwest Asia. Hunt's team accepts all three vehicle tasks. The 1-401st AFSB provides the GDLS multi-national workforce with a well-designed warehouse, administrative and logistical assistance, as well as tight coordination with military units in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Today, we're going to walk you through each process inside this battle damage repair facility," said Hunt. "We've got teams in six bays maintaining a seamless operation that allows a constant flow of vehicles." The morning tour began with an introduction to repair and overhaul management. Then a warehouse supervisor explained material stock and parts accountability.
"I believe we have the best of the best for welders," said Jason Hill, a GDLS weld supervisor from Olympia, Wash., after picking up the orientation. "We are able to take vehicles with the most extreme battle damage and turn them into a brand new truck. We have fixed every vehicle that has come through here."
"These guys are my Picassos," said Hunt about the GDLS welders. "I challenge anyone to find where they made repairs."
Mark Romero, a GDLS production assistant supervisor from Tucson, Ariz., stepped forward to explain the differences between reset and battle damage repairs, as well as new retrofit requirements.
"Everyone is proud of the work they do," said Romero in summary. "We give soldiers the very best product we can."
After familiarization with facility management, vehicle teardown, cleaning procedures, component repair and quality control, everyone walked outside to review before-and-after results. Four of the Strykers sat ready to be driven after recently completed battle-damage repairs; a collection of medical evacuation, reconnaissance and infantry carrier variants. According to Hunt, "if you can drive a sports utility vehicle, you can drive one of these trucks."
After a safety brief, the 1-401st AFSB participants separated into four groups and entered each Stryker through the rear crew compartment hatch. GDLS vehicle commanders drove the Stryker passengers to a nearby 1,600-meter paved test track.
"It's definitely a smoother and quieter ride than the M113 Armored Personnel Carriers," said Sgt. 1st Class Carl Matthews, from Farmingdale, N.J., appreciating his first experience inside a Stryker, a medical evacuation variant. Mathews said he feels safer in a Stryker than in an APC. At the track, Matthews climbed outside the vehicle through an overhead opening and jumped into the driver seat.
While positioned at the controls, every driver learned how to open and close the rear hatch, adjust the seat, set the emergency brakes and turnover the engine, as well as accelerate, stop and steer the vehicle. The drivers reached speeds between 40 and 50 miles per hour.
"We hope you obtained a better sense of understanding for what you're supporting," said Hunt, after presenting certificates of appreciation to the 1-401st AFSB soldiers and civilians. "Everyone can continue to work hard with a better sense of purpose. Now you really know what goes on in this facility."