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Up-armor factory meeting Army's demands

By Staff Sgt. Reeba Critser

WASHINGTON(Feb. 8, 2005) - Since August 2003, the production of up-armored Humvees has gone from 15 to almost 500 vehicles per month to meet the needs in Iraq.

The sole maker of up-armored vehicles - Armor Holdings, Inc. - found their production requirement go up as insurgents in Iraq used more improvised explosive devices on convoys.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker visited O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt, an Armor Holdings factory in Fairfield, Ohio, Feb. 4.

"We're increasing our production to help the men and women in Iraq," said Ronald Carson, production and fabrication manager at O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt.

In December, Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey discussed building 550 vehicles a month with Armor Holdings executives to ensure Soldiers in theater have additional protection.

The 600 employees of O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt work 10-hour shifts to ensure U.S. Soldiers have the best built-in steel-armored vehicle available to them, Carson said.

"This vehicle is built for mine protection in the front and rear; armor piercing in the front, rear and side; overhead fragment protection; and also protection on the side for the gunners against (improvised explosive devices)," Carson said.

The ballistic glass, created at the Fairfield plant, is sent out in kits to the field for installation to provide added protection against IEDs and other ammunition.

Army depots and arsenals have also been working to build armor add-on kits to be inserted into existing military vehicles in Kuwait to provide protection. This will result in the combatant commander's requirement for armored vehicles to be fulfilled at the end of this month.

In addition, the factory also makes gunner protection kits, spare parts and supplemental armor components for superior fortification.

Carson, whose 19 years in the company has sent him to Haiti and Bosnia to assist the U.S. Army, said "we need to do this to protect the Soldiers."

Troops who survived an attack have visited the plant, he said, and talked to engineers who took notes in order to design the vehicles even better.

The Department of Defense pays about $140,300 for the M1114 Humvee armored vehicle in contrast to the $64,800 for an unarmored one. The cost of an armored vehicle includes the chassis from AM General and armoring from O'Gara Hess & Eisenhardt. In the last fiscal year, $1.27 billion was spent to produce 6,665 M1114 up-armored vehicles, in addition to the 3,684 up-armored Humvees already on contract.

The Humvees are lined up in nine lanes inside the factory. A clock stands above each lane, counting down from 40 minutes. Different parts are installed in different lanes and each lane has 40 minutes to install their parts. That's how the plant is able to build approximately 26 vehicles a day.

"Doing my job helps save lives over there (in theater)," said Don Meier, a heater and air conditioner installer with the company and an Army Reserve Soldier with the 478th Engineer Battalion in Kentucky.

A mechanic in the Army, Meier returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2003 with the added experience of clearing mines, and guarding ammunition supply points and bridges.

"When (my unit) goes back we'll have (vehicles with) bullet proof windshields, our gunner will have a shield and the vehicle will be protected all around against ballistic rounds, (rocket propelled grenades) and IEDs," he said. "I wish I had these when we went the first time."

On Schoomaker's visit to the plant, he thanked the employees for all their hard work after touring the production line.

"I'm satisfied the company is working very hard to meet the (secretary of the Army's) requirements," he said. "I'm impressed with the people making it happen. It's not a fully automated process. I'm thankful for the quality of the work they produce."

The Army's top general told the employees that in addition to the up-armored vehicles, that tactics are being changed also.

"We're changing doctrine based on lessons learned," Schoomaker said. "We're changing the way we're doing our training, adapting our technology and training and developing leaders to protect our Soldiers in addition to the vehicles."

See related article Need for hardening vehicles ebbs in Kuwait

www.ARMY.mil OCPA Public Affairs Home

www.ARMY.mil OCPA Public Affairs Home


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