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Heavy Equipment Division keeps Army rolling on Korean Peninsula

Soldiers ride in an M-1A1 Abrams tank in the 1991 National Victory Celebration parade honoring the coalition forces of Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Army)
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U.S. tanks, Humvees and trucks that break down in South Korea don’t stay out of the fight for long, thanks to a massive repair shop near the southeastern city of Daegu.

The Heavy Equipment Division at Camp Carroll can service almost every vehicle in the Army’s inventory.

“If there’s a piece of equipment that the unit’s having an extremely long time to troubleshoot or repair … they send it here,” said the division’s chief, Matthew Tassin.

The centerpiece of the site — which includes paint shops, road-test facilities and lots filled with newly refurbished vehicles — is a massive, 141,782-square-foot H-shaped hanger built in 1964. After the break whistle blows, more than 250 Korean mechanics pour in and hustle to the about 30 broken-down vehicles, mending them with wrenches and blow torches.

“There’s no assembly line here,” Tassin said of the workshop.

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It’s easy to see why. Almost no two pieces are alike. The mechanics were working on vehicles ranging from Abrams tanks to fuel trucks and mine-clearing claws when Stars and Stripes visited earlier this month.

When equipment arrives, one or two mechanics are assigned to it. They might strip it down and build it back up before checking the work to make sure it’s up to standard. Repaired vehicles are repainted and send back to units, Tassin said.

Fixing a Humvee takes about 66 days, while a tank takes 79. That’s much less than it would take to ship it back to the States, Tassin said.

“It means something [to our workers]; it’s value to them,” he said of their speed and craftsmanship.

Out of 400 projects that go through the facility each year only a tenth of 1 percent are kicked back, Tassin said. That record makes the division the top repair shop out of a dozen similar facilities in the Army. The Carroll shop has the same rating as the Army’s stringent aviation repair shop.

It’s so good that Marines on Okinawa are sending some of their gear there to be fixed. The facility’s hose fabrication shop, which Tassin called a “top seller,” is another point of pride with orders coming in from as far away as Hawaii and Europe.

Along with time, the workshop saves the Army money. A cost-sharing agreement means 71 percent of labor costs are covered by South Korea along with any equipment and tools bought from Korean vendors.

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Tassin said the Heavy Equipment Division also has a major wartime function, while during peacetime it helps service the prepositioned war stock at Camp Carroll and Busan.

During a war, the division would add thousands of Korean civilian reservists and begin doling out that equipment to freshly arriving troops.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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