MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Widely known as the Marine Corps’ best kept secret, Maintenance Center Albany continues to be a force in the Overseas Contingency Operations in Afghanistan.
A recent addition to their repair line portfolio is the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected Buffalo, a multi-wheeled vehicle used for route clearance leading convoys down roads riddled with improvised explosive devices.
“These Buffalo vehicles will be going back in theater after they are repaired or used for home station training assets, so we have to make sure they meet the required specifications and are safe,” said Debbie Fullerton, project lead, MRAP, MCA“Once an IED is detected, the Buffalo has ballistic capabilities to shield the Marines should one explode. We have seen a lot of damage to the exterior, but the interior remained intact and the occupants were kept safe because of the work we do here.”
MCA officials say Marines have to remain vigilant of enemy threats on and off the road. Roads laced with IEDs, land mines and other explosive hazards pose a huge threat to their mission.
“Once the IEDs are detected, the Buffalo has a claw, which is remotely operated from inside the vehicle, to dig and scoop it up, then move it to an area where it’s destroyed,” Fullerton said. “This vehicle is irreplaceable and helps save lives. This year, we are scheduled to repair 35 vehicles with an additional eight that will be returned to fully mission capable vehicles, meaning they did not need a lot of repairs.”
Blasé Goodman, manager, projects branch, MCA, is responsible for nine work teams, one of which is the MRAP Buffalo. The Buffalo project was implemented in July 2009.
During a demonstration, he explained that the air digger attached to the claw will blow debris, sand or whatever the insurgents use to cover the IED, and uncover it so it can be removed and destroyed. This is one of the modifications placed on the Buffalo after lessons learned.
Fullerton said when the vehicles arrive at MCA, a limited technical inspection is conducted to see what type of damage there is to the vehicle and what parts need to be replaced or repaired.
“We have a method for disassembling the vehicle and every part that comes off of it is strategically placed in bins for the expediter and inspectors to inspect,” she said. “The vehicle then goes through a repair cycle and it is basically restored to like-new status. After the repairs are completed, the vehicle is fully tested by conducting the road, dig and other testing to ensure it is in like-new condition.”
According to the Web site, www.militaryfactory.com, the MRAP Buffalo is a Category 3 class armored vehicle with a V-shaped hull used to deflect the deadliest part of an explosion. The blast-resistant armored vehicle uses a 30-foot remote controlled robotic arm with pitchfork-like fingers called a claw, and a camera to inspect and remove explosive threats.
“We get feedback from Marines and soldiers who have been in this equipment and survived blasts in combat. We recently had a letter read to us from the mother of a Marine who survived an IED blast because of the equipment we repaired, upgraded and modified here.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the stands,” Goodman said. “When we get reports and stories of warfighters coming home safe because of the work we do, it is a satisfying feeling.
“There is no better reason to get up in the morning and come to work every day. To know we had a role in bringing home a son, daughter, husband or wife makes it all worthwhile,” he said.