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Combat-worthy: Test track provides ground for safe ride

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | September 25, 2014

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A cloud of white, grayish smoke rolls from the rear tires of a Category II A1 Cougar Mine- Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle as its driver screeches it to a halt on Marine Depot Maintenance Command/Production Plant Albany’s test track, leaving a set of black skid marks.

Those skid marks on the concrete test track indicate the vehicle has passed its brake test.

Carson Hufstetler, heavy mobile equipment work leader, Shop 276, Cougar/MRAP Line, MDMC, said he has been testing the MRAP vehicle since its introduction in 2010.

Hufstetler, who began his career at MDMC as a heavy mobile equipment mechanic in 2006, said brakes are one of many items on his checklist to test.

“I make sure the breaks are adjusted properly and ensure there is no uneven braking when stopping,” Hufstetler said.  “I also check the performance of the engine by listening for unusual noises and vibrations.

“During the road test, I also check the alignment to make sure the vehicle does not dart from one side to the other and the air conditioning and heater work properly,” he said.

Also, while blocking out the humming of the MRAP’s engine, he focused on its transmission and listened closely, ensuring it shifted through all the gears smoothly.

Hufstetler said his main thought when entering the test track is he “hopes the vehicle performs like it should and nothing breaks and no one is injured. You don’t want the brakes to lock down, to run off the track or the steering to lock up.”

Each time he sits behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, Hufstetler thinks about his brother who served in the Army and his friends who continue to serve the nation.

The heavy mobile equipment work leader stated he wants to make sure each vehicle performs at its highest level before leaving MDMC.

According to Todd W. Archer, facilities engineer, MDMC, the test track was rebuilt and safety improvements were completed in April 2013, an investment of $2.9 million.

Dean Knickerbocker, heavy mobile equipment mechanic supervisor, Shop 276, Cougar/MRAP Line, MDMC, said the purpose of the track is to test each vehicle that is repaired at MDMC, with the exception of bulldozers, to ensure they are ready for the Marine Corps fleet.

“If we have something break down, we want it to break down here and not when it is in the hands of the Marines using it,” Knickerbocker said.

“What we do here is very important,” Knickerbocker continued. “Everybody’s life depends on it when it hits the field (forward deployed) wherever it may be.

“As a team, our shop strives to ensure we can put out the best product that anybody will ever receive from any other depot,” he added. “We strive to be the best because ‘Every day, a Marine’s life depends on it.’”
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