MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA -- A 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps recently arrived at the Albany Maintenance Center. The salty old dog is here for a life-changing experience that will ultimately cost the Marine Corps $250,000.
This veteran has been an asset to the Corps by hauling supplies and other mission-critical items to Marines during training exercises and during real combat and humanitarian operations. According to Marines who witnessed his action during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he is vital to the Corps' success in the Gulf War.
This seasoned warrior actually has no rank. Although the Corps assigns ranks to members of its canine units, it does not assign ranks to vehicles, weapon systems or other military equipment - and this warrior is the MK48 front power unit, also known as the Logistics Vehicle System when it's used to pull various trailers loaded with mission-critical cargo.
The MK48 is old and rusty now, and in need of serious attention to become useful to the Corps again. In fact, the vehicle's deteriorated condition resulted in its nickname, Rusty.
Following a thorough examination - better known as an inspection in vehicle vernacular - to determine if Rusty could be fully restored, Maintenance Center workers drained all the vehicle's vital fluids, oil, transmission and hydraulic fluids, which took approximately three hours.
Now completely immobilized and dependent on others, Rusty was taken to another area of the Maintenance Center and given a steaming hot shower that removed all the dirt, grease and grime accumulated over the years of service to Corps and country.
After cleaning, Rusty was subjected to a "gutting" process, whereby all interior components were removed, leaving only those that were vital - the engine and transmission. Finally, those two vital components were also removed and inspected to determine if restoration work or replacement were needed.
Rusty was virtually "put to sleep" when all the internal components were removed, but the machine's suspended animation was necessary. Rusty was only a shadow - or a frame - of his original self while his internal parts went to more than 20 different shops for examination, assessment, repair or replacement.
The MK48 frame showed Rusty's age, so the vehicle was scheduled for a facelift - sandblasting and repair of minor damage.
Maintenance Center crews carefully monitored the separate processes to ensure all the parts were ready to be replaced to Rusty's body as soon as the framework was completed.
All the major components were replaced, and Rusty went to the test track for a 10- to 15-mile run. Just as with humans, Rusty's first run was accompanied by moans, groans and squeals.
Accordingly, test track mechanics finely tuned the MK48's various parts to ensure everything worked properly.
Having passed the physical fitness test, Rusty was issued new camouflage utilities - or a camouflage paint job, to be accurate.
The "green-tag inspection," the final inspection to determine if Rusty could be returned to service, went well. During the inspection he was checked for leaks and it was ensured he was properly assembled.
The vehicle had been restored to its "younger self" and was ready to be shipped back to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to await orders to deploy to the field to resupply infantry units.
"I've seen other vehicles 'junked' because they were beyond repair," the MK48 might remark if it could speak. "I was afraid that might happen to me, so I'm really glad to be in great shape again. I've been revived! My 20 years of faithful service paid off, and I'm proud to once again serve the greatest fighting force in the world - the Marines!"