Army testing plan to do major vehicle repairs in South Korea
Stars and Stripes July 8, 2003
TAEGU, South Korea — Somewhere in South Korea is a very select M-9 ACE, or armored combat earthmover.
In a few months, this earthmover, from a 2nd Infantry Division engineering unit, will be the subject of a U.S.-South Korea experiment. If successful, it could save the United States a lot of time and money — and could keep more equipment in the field helping troops, not sitting in a maintenance depot half a globe away.
The experiment: See whether certain U.S. military equipment can be overhauled or get major repairs right in South Korea, at a Korean Army depot in Changwon.
“It’s a great thing,” said Maj. Curtis Roberts, a spokesman for the 2nd ID, which has the bulk of the U.S. military’s combat vehicles in South Korea. “It’s gonna save money. It’s gonna save time … because we no longer have to ship equipment back to the U.S. for depot-level maintenance. And it’s also going to enhance our readiness because the equipment will return a lot sooner … since it stays right here in Korea.”
The need for such maintenance is a constant for U.S. Army combat vehicles, which take a real beating when they rumble down rural South Korea’s back roads or dash across training ranges during mock battle drills.
And when such vehicles anywhere in the world need major repairs, the Army sends them to maintenance depots in the United States.
Normally, the vehicle is put aboard a flatbed truck, hauled to a railhead, put on a train, taken to a seaport, shipped from there to the United States, then trucked to the maintenance depot.
And when it’s been overhauled or repaired, the same process must occur in reverse before the unit gets its vehicle back.
“Typically it can take up to nine months to a year depending on what type of equipment it is,” said Nelson Williams, maintenance division chief with the Army’s 55th Theater Support Command (Materiel Management Center) at Camp Henry in Taegu.
If the work can be done in South Korea, a U.S. unit might have a vehicle overhauled and back in the motor pool in about three months — “substantially” faster, Williams said.
The Army would pay local rates for the repairs, which would cost more. But the the Army also expects substantial savings from eliminating overseas shipping and South Korean labor costs, which are cheaper than those stateside, Williams said.
Called the Republic of Korea-8th U.S. Army Mutual Maintenance Initiative, the trial is to kick off in a month or so with a single M-9 ACE, Williams said.
A “depot level” overhaul entails stripping a vehicle to its frame, then refurbishing it — repairs, brand new engine or other parts when needed, a paint job, and so on, Williams said.
The 55th Theater Support Command started developing the MMI program about a year ago and now manages it for the Army.
If results are good, the Army would look to move vehicles through on a regular basis, as long as the South Korean depot could fit the extra work into its operating schedules, said Army Maj. Andrew Mutter, spokesman for the 19th Theater Support Command at Camp Henry.
It’s too early to know how many vehicles the U.S. Army eventually might move through, or how much money it stands to save, Williams said. But, he noted, shipping a single M-113 armored personnel carrier from South Korea to the United States and back in the fiscal year ending last October cost about $12,500.
Overhauls of three such vehicles in South Korea, therefore, could mean a $37,500 savings in shipping costs alone, Williams said.