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Fixing Frankenstein: Armored Security Vehicle maintenance keeps Military Police combat ready

By Master Sgt. Michel Sauret | March 19, 2018

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The Armored Security Vehicle (ASV) is a beast of a machine, able to protect Soldiers from explosions, riding on massive wheels that keep the hull high off the ground, and it’s equipped with a turret made to hold two machine guns, a grenade launcher and smoke grenades.

And as beastly as it is on the outside, the ASV is a total Frankenstein on the inside. The engine, transmission, air conditioning, axles system and the vehicle itself are each built by different companies. Therefore, when Army mechanics work to maintain these vehicles, the depth of knowledge required goes far beyond the Humvees they’ve been fixing for years.

That’s why the 200th Military Police Command partnered with the 99th Readiness Division to develop a pilot program for Army Reserve mechanics to train on the ASV. The 200th has the vehicles and mechanics who need training, while the 99th has the maintenance experts who offer the course.

“The ASV is a melting pot of parts,” said Herbert Green, one of the instructors who teaches ASV maintenance as well as other courses for the 99th RD. “Attention to detail with the ASV is needed due to its Frankenstein appearance.”

To change the brakes, for example, a mechanic has to pump the brake pedal more than 200 times to release the hydraulic pressure. If that step is ignored, there’s 3,000 PSI of fluid pressure that could cause serious injury or death.

Something else: the entire 4,000-pound engine-transmission combo has to be removed to perform even the simplest maintenance: such as changing the motor oil. This maintenance feature is also found in some track vehicles and larger wheeled trucks.

That’s like having to disconnect all the plumbing in your bathroom just to swap out the toilet paper roll.

“There’s a lot of things we can pick up in here. A lot of hands-on training. It keeps us sharp with the new (procedures) in conducting maintenance,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Overby, one of the mechanics attending the course, with the 377th MP Company (Combat Support), out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The pilot program has taught a dozen Soldiers so far, with another twelve coming later this year. The 5-day class is held in Schenectady, New York, at a facility known as an AMSA: Area Maintenance Support Activity. AMSA shops exist across the country. They provide advance-level repairs for Army Reserve vehicles.

“When the MPs need us, they need us because they need their vehicles,” said Eric Adams, logistics support and AMSA supervisor in Schenectady. “We just take mechanics who are already trained and make them better.”

The 200th MP Command has been sending its Army mechanics from all over the country to attend the course. The command owns hundreds of ASVs at the company level, along with Humvees and other logistical vehicles. The ASV is used by military police Soldiers who provide combat support and security escorts on the battlefield. It has an up-armored shell, but still able to navigate through smaller urban areas.

It first arrived on the scene in the early 2000s during the start of the Iraq & Afghanistan wars. The contract for the vehicles came with a warranty and maintenance program that included training and tool kits, but when the equipment was new, there was little to maintain because nothing broke. Therefore the perishable skills of maintaining the ASVs faded over the years.

“But as time goes on and the equipment gets older and sits for a while, the Gremlins pop in, the equipment breaks, and now you start getting the epidemic of warranties wearing off … and that’s when you start to discover you don’t have a lot of trained personnel (left),” said Adams.

That’s why this course exists today, to provide Army mechanics the knowledge and confidence of working on this intimidating beast. The cost of instructors is covered by the 99th RD. Commands who want to send mechanics to the course just need to pay for Soldiers’ duty and travel.

This cost-saving program is essential for the Army because maintaining a vehicle is cheaper than fixing it later when it break. Additionally, the class teaches Soldiers the tools they need to properly diagnose the ASV engine and transmission.

For example, there’s a transmission solenoid that wears out over time. It costs $150 to replace, but some mechanic shops have replaced the entire $33,000 transmission because of improper diagnosis.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Overby. “Plus you’re giving a Soldier … a marketable skill out in the civilian (sector) if they want to change careers.”

This AMSA also offers specialized, in-depth classes on other components and specialties: such as welding, engine diagnostics, hydraulic systems, air conditioning systems, transmission repair and general maintenance. The 99th RD offers a 5-day class on each of those components. They’re designed for military technicians who work at other AMSAs, but Soldiers are allowed to attend as well.

Another challenge with maintaining the ASV is that it requires two specialized kits, one to remove the “power pack” (the engine-transmission combo), and another to remove the turret. They originally came with the ASV when they were first fielded to the Army, but in the years since, vehicles have been transferred from unit to unit but the kits didn’t always go with them. Each of those kits costs $43,000 to replace. Without them, there’s not much mechanics can do to maintain the ASV. Without coming to this course, many wheeled vehicle mechanics might not know about the kits needed for the job.

“I actually have some vehicles on the line now (back at the unit) that I didn’t have any idea how to fix, and now I do. So I’m really excited to go back. We have a (four-day training) coming up. I’m going to go out there and knock them out,” said Spc. John Williams, mechanic with the 346th MP Co., located at Fort Riley, Kansas.

All of this points to the Army’s top priority: ensuring units are ready to deploy.

“Getting us trained and proficient will pay dividends on the back end when we have equipment that is up longer, readiness ratings are better. We can deploy anywhere, anytime,” said Overby.