June 8th, 2012
04:24 PM ET

Where war equipment goes to freshen up

By Rich Phillips reporting from Jacksonville, FL

It's not your run-of-the-mill repair shop. The people working here are readying the Marine Corps for unknown conflicts.

At Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Florida, bullet-riddled and wartorn equipment and trucks from Iraq and Afghanistan are being cleaned, repaired and retrofitted for the next time the phone rings.

"The goal is to never use the stuff," said Lt. Col. Rick Steele, the base commanding officer. "It's the best we have. The perfect case is to bring it back here, recycle it and never use it."Here, half of the Marine Corps' ground combat assets are maintained and upgraded by Honeywell, which has a staff of 600.

Workers prep a truck recently returned from Iraq

"We don't pick up weapons and go fight. We're helping every step of the way to help them do their job, right up to that fight line," said Doug Hill, Honeywell's operation manager at Blount Island.

The process is a complicated choreography of the behind-the-scenes repair and logistics that make up the national security business. It includes everything from basic routine maintenance and repairs of armored personnel carriers and Humvees to retrofitting a vehicle with armor.

Wilbur Scott, a retired sailor who has been with Honeywell for 14 years, is a senior mechanic working on an armored personnel carrier, trying to get it battle-ready again.

"They don't tell us what's wrong with it," he said. "They say 'this is your vehicle; go fix it.' It's not like you take your car to the dealership."

He and his partner, A.J. Jenkins, have been working on it for two weeks. They started with a test drive and have identified a fuel line that needed replacing.

"Our job is to make sure that those guys, wherever they are throughout the world, have the best qualified vehicle for whatever they have to do. That's our goal, and that's our motivation," Scott said.

"No one wants to have to send a message to their kids that it didn't happen or something we did that didn't give them the full advantage of what we do," he said.

This armored personnel carrier will be loaded aboard a ship that will set sail for the Indian Ocean, one of three areas of the world where U.S. Marines position their assets aboard 14 ships.

The Stockham will spend 3 years at sea before returning for its own upgrading.

In the Indian Ocean, five ships packed to the gills with everything a Marine needs for any mission can sustain a squadron of 17,000 Marines for 30 days. The supplies and equipment are climate-controlled.

The Marines also position in the Mediterranean Sea and in Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

"Everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, from a first aid kit to a tank," said Jim Hooks of the Marine Corps.

"It's an exceptionally credible combat force that can kick in the door and stay for a while," he said.

About 300 contract workers who live aboard the ships continuously maintain the cargo when not in use by Honeywell. Thirty-six months later, the ships return to Jacksonville to be thoroughly maintained and readied again.

"If we needed to get there right now and be able to stay and conduct business, whether it be humanitarian assistance or conflict resolution, nobody else in the world can get there like we can," Steele said.

"Unfortunately, we know from most recent experiences that the gear gets used several times a year," he said.

And it's not just in military operations and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marines have assisted in disaster relief after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, as well as in tsunami relief.

"This stuff is made to be abused, and if we have to, we know how to abuse it," Steele said.

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Filed under: Marines • Military
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Sensor and Surveillance Systems

    Marine security is needed for India

    December 19, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
  2. Jaxsona Arddx

    Out of my investigation, shopping for consumer electronics online can for sure be expensive, nonetheless there are some tips and tricks that you can use to acquire the best discounts. There are often ways to come across discount promotions that could help to make one to ge thet best consumer electronics products at the cheapest prices. Thanks for your blog post.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  3. SMB

    30 days and then what if...

    June 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  4. Obelisk ©™

    The denuclearization of South Asia (Subcontinent) particularly India is imperative.
    Quid pro quo transfer of nuclear technology by USA to third world countries such as India needs to be opposed on moral grounds. Billions of people live in that neighborhood and would be at risk from such catastrophes which I am sure the American people would not like to be a party to. We are all well aware that that region is prone to floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and of course terrorism placing such nuclear installations at tremendous risks. US Congress is urged to reconsider and cancel all the agreements for the transfer of such technologies due “Force Majeure”.

    June 10, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      India is a big boy.. they can make their own decisions and are responsible for them. Stop blaming the U.S. for everything and start demanding reasonability from everyone.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  5. Mbele Mbele Oulou

    And the Simba XV too

    June 10, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
  6. Gandalf

    Old American equipment goes to one place more often than not..... Israel.

    Just take a look at the armor in the new merkava 4...

    June 10, 2012 at 1:58 am | Reply

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