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Airmen add armor to convoy vehicles

by Senior Airman Shaun Emery
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

6/23/2005 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN)  -- Airmen here are adding life-saving armor large trucks to protect troops on convoy missions throughout Iraq.

While these monsters of the road may look menacing now, it was not always this way, officials said. In many cases, their complete transformation can be traced back to the Airmen of the 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group’s add-on armor shop here.

The shop’s Airmen receive Army 5-ton vehicles, strip off the entire body and replace it with improved armor, said Senior Master Sgt. James Turner, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 732nd EMSG.

A normal switch of armor can take up to 100 man-hours, Sergeant Turner said, but with a new process, the shop gets the work done in about 72.

“Our goal is to roll a truck in here first thing in the morning, get it stripped, start the (armoring) process and have the vehicle ready to roll out the next morning,” he said.

As the trucks move from one station to the next, teams of three complete specific tasks, including removing the old armor, installing the new and checking the quality of the installation.

The teams, made up of active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen, said it took a while to get adjusted, but now they have the system down.

“It’s like putting together a puzzle,” said Senior Airman Dermedrix White, a vehicle maintainer from Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Tech. Sgt. Chad Pinkerton, a vehicle maintainer from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., said nothing could prepare him for the job he was sent to do.

“In my 15 years in the Air Force, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s also the most important job I’ve ever had. When you see a 5-ton in the defense reutilization and marketing office lot all busted up, and know that something you’re doing makes it possible for the (drivers) to come out of a wreck like that alive, it’s very rewarding.”

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