News: Light Armored Reconnaissance Trades in Wheels
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan—The Marines with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion geared up recently to drive their Light Armored Vehicles to Camp Dwyer swap them out for recently overhauled LAVs.
This vehicle swap is known as a Principal End Item rotation and is a process where the LAVs will be replaced with ones brought in from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. During the PEI rotation, each of these vehicles will be fitted with all the necessary gear to be fully operational and the old vehicles will be taken to MCLB Albany to receive an overhaul of their own. The Marines of 2nd LAR will swap all of the vehicles over the next coming months.
“The [current] vehicles are being retrograded back to the United States,” said Master Sgt. Richard Ormsbee, the quality and control chief for 2nd LAR. “[We] are taking the add-on equipment from the old vehicles and placing them on the new vehicles that are coming into country.”
The Marines of 2nd LAR will employ their newly acquired LAVs to continue combat and interdiction operations in the Southern Helmand River Valley without worry of a vehicle going down due to mechanical failure.
This is the first time a PEI rotation, of this size, has occurred for LAVs in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war. LAR battalions have seen an increase in operational tempo over recent years, which have added extra wear and tear on the current LAVs and the battalion would swap out a few vehicles at a time. These LAVs have been in continuous use since they first rolled into the deserts of Afghanistan and were in desperate need of depot level maintenance.
“Second LAR sent these vehicles over in 2009, so they have been for that long,” Ormsbee, an Ogdensburg, N.Y., native. “The maintenance aspect of it has been astronomical. [The Marines] are doing an annual service on these things every couple of months. They are getting that much usage out here.”
The increased operations have made maintenance tricky for the LAR battalions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. The battalions who used these vehicles in the past years have had to ensure they maintain the equipment they have, while still holding a visible presence in their area of operations.
Ormsbee said the battalion would only take a few vehicles at a time to perform maintenance, while the rest of the battalion would continue operations in the Southern Helmand River Valley.
“The mechanical side is very stepped up,” said Ormsbee. “That’s why it’s good we’re [performing] this PEI rotation and getting new vehicles in here.”
The battalion is scheduled to bring a selected number of vehicles at a time to Camp Dwyer for the rotation. Marines from 2nd LAR, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, and Field Service Representatives for special equipment items will perform the PEI rotation, said Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Conger, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Special Equipment Items lot, Camp Dwyer Cell. All personnel involved in this project are working hard to ensure these vehicles are not only safe, but combat ready.
Five separate models of LAVS were delivered in Afghanistan much like you would receive a base model car from a dealership, skin and bones with no amenities. It is the Marines’ and FSR’s job to give each vehicle a facelift with new equipment.
“[Everyone] here has their own contribution they’re giving,” said Ormsbee. “We’ve got [communication technicians] that are taking the [communications systems] off of the old vehicles and placing them on the new vehicles. We have mechanics that are helping with the [armor kits], welders who are helping. Just multiple [Military Operational Specialties] and each have a pivotal role ensuring this task takes place.”
Conger, an Avon, Ind., native noted that the FSRs are working during the daytime in temperatures well exceeding 100 degrees to fit these eight-wheeled all-terrain cruisers with navigation systems and CREW Vehicle Receiver Jammer systems, which block the signal for radio-activated improvised explosive devices.
The vehicles worked on during the day by the FSRs are driven to another lot on base during the evening. At that time, the Marines are spending long hours wrenching on each vehicle to uninstall and re-install the under belly protection kits, communication systems, and a laundry list of additional items. The Marines have seen several challenges since the PEI rotation began aside from regular sandstorms and sometimes working until 4 a.m.
“The challenges we are facing is basically logistics,” said Ormsbee. “We’ve got multiple units coming together from different bases, using other people’s lots, and borrowing tools.”
The Marines worked the bugs out after the first two vehicles were completed and were able to start an assembly line of LAVs. The PEI rotation is well underway and the Marines are moving forward getting the vehicles into operations.
“The [unit’s] operational readiness will now be at 100 percent because the unit will have a full set of vehicles rather than be deficient,” said Ormsbee. “The capabilities [it adds] bringing these new vehicles in is it allows [2nd LAR] to have a full compliment of vehicles. They won’t be short sided.”