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Lance Cpl. Michael Callaghan, a Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, uses a wire brush to scrub rust off the window seal of a Humvee aboard the USS Essex.

Lance Cpl. Michael Callaghan, a Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, uses a wire brush to scrub rust off the window seal of a Humvee aboard the USS Essex. (Kamran Sadaghiani / Courtesy of USMC)

Lance Cpl. Michael Callaghan, a Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, uses a wire brush to scrub rust off the window seal of a Humvee aboard the USS Essex.

Lance Cpl. Michael Callaghan, a Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, uses a wire brush to scrub rust off the window seal of a Humvee aboard the USS Essex. (Kamran Sadaghiani / Courtesy of USMC)

Lance Cpl. Justin Strickland, with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spray paints the window seal of a Humvee on the USS Essex.

Lance Cpl. Justin Strickland, with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spray paints the window seal of a Humvee on the USS Essex. (Kamran Sadaghiani / Courtesy of USMC)

As Neil Young sings, “rust never sleeps.” And anyone who’s served aboard a ship at sea knows that’s true — chipping and painting is the sailor’s way of life.

It’s no different for Marines charged with keeping their tactical vehicles rust-free aboard ships in the tropics. A few weeks of constant exposure to salt water and high humidity can turn a Humvee into a Rust-vee.

That’s why the motor transportation Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the Sasebo, Japan,-based USS Essex are busying themselves with combating corrosion on the high seas.

“We operate in a humid environment,” said Sgt. Christopher L. Battles, the 31st MEU motor transportation noncommissioned officer in charge, according to a recent press release. “Additionally, the vehicles are exposed to salt water whenever we conduct ship-to-shore operations. Our vehicles rust quickly because of the harsh conditions we put them through and just from sitting inside the ship’s vehicle storage spaces.

“Just like sailors constantly chipping paint and repainting their ships, we have to do the same with our vehicles,” the Okinawa-based Marine said. “Whenever time permits, we wash off salt water residue, scrape off rust, grease nuts and bolts and repaint the frame, armor and any other crevices around the vehicles. This corrosion prevention is a never-ending job.”

Combating corrosion is a time-consuming task — especially attacking the smaller, harder to reach things such as rivets, hinges, armored window seals, nuts and bolts.

“The term corrosion control makes us cringe,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Allen, the motor transportation chief for Combat Logistics Battalion 31, the MEU’s combat service support element.

“We could spend a short time fixing a vehicle’s engine, but we can spend hours of labor-intensive rust-busting on a Humvee and it will be rusted again a month later,” he said, according to the press release. “The ocean water here causes us a great deal of trouble. Nothing makes us happier than a fresh-water wash down to make the job easier. It’s a tough job but it’s essential.”


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