MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga -- Colonel John Coleman, chief of staff, I Marine Expeditionary Force, came to the Marine Corps Logistics Command's maintenance center June 7 following his tour in Iraq.
But his return was not part of a 12-month military rotation; it was a special trip - just to say thanks.
Coleman visited laborers at LogCom's depot in Albany, Ga., to express his gratitude about the job the men and women have done on the Operation Iraqi Freedom vehicle-hardening project.
The vehicle-hardening project designs and produces effective armor kits for a variety of wheeled vehicles used in Iraq. These armor kits help protect Marines and Sailors from Improvised Explosive Devices, small arms fire, mines and grenades.
The chief of staff visited the area that Maintenance Center Albany has deemed "armor annex" to shake hands with the employees, see them in action and simply say "thank you."
He met members from the engineering team, and also stopped by the welding shop, sheet metal shop and the powder coat paint areas.
"I just want you guys to know that the work you do here makes a huge difference in Iraq," Coleman said, as he addressed about a dozen employees in the welding shop.
"I felt I had to make this trip to say thank you (to the employees) at the line level where people are making a difference," he went on to explain.
Coleman shared a recent war story that helped illustrate exactly how much the added armor is helping save lives.
"There was one instance in the Division Jump Command Post where a convoy got ambushed," Coleman said. "There was a sergeant major and a general's aide traveling in a humvee that was in the blast zone of an IED. The aide was wounded (from the blast), and is recovering. The sergeant major was unharmed and is still out there (Iraq) in the fight. Both are alive today because of those doors," he said.
"Our troops swear by them (hardened doors)," Coleman added. "When the trucks come in with the armor kits, Marines stand in line to get them. We've gotten to the point where we don't send out any vehicles without the hardened kits attached."
Coleman said that the vehicle hardening kits manufactured by Maintenance Center Albany not only increases the survivability rate of Marines and Sailors, but also enhances their ability to fight back.
"These kits saves lives and helps us kill bad guys," Coleman said to several employees in the sheet metal shop. "Believe me, you guys are in the fight with us everyday because of the fine work you do here."
Coleman called MCA's efforts "monumental."
According to Col. Pete Underwood, MCA commander, the maintenance center will continue in its efforts to support the operating forces.
"Maintenance Center Albany has shipped more than 8,000 armor kits to date. Our employees will continue to make sure we meet our requirements so no Marine will have to go into Iraq in an unarmored vehicle," he said.