In an annual program called "Operation Platinum Wrench," soldiers are trained to perform integrated sustainment maintenance above the direct support level.
by Major Sandra J. Raveling
The U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) has worked very hard to establish a training program for its ordnance military occupational specialties (MOS's). All maintenance companies in the Army Reserve rotate for training to Camp Dodge, Iowa, and the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. Sometimes they gain training through overseas missions or training at their home stations. This cycle does not include the many diverse maintenance support missions the units are involved in throughout the year. For example, maintenance companies regularly participate in exercises such as POLEX (a petroleum transportation field exercise) and Roving Sands (a joint air defense training exercise) and rotate to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Two of the five maintenance battalions in the Army Reserve, the 521st Maintenance Battalion at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and the 387th Maintenance Battalion at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, are implementing a maintenance training program called Operation Platinum Wrench (OPW). OPW is a 2- to 4-month program that integrates the operations of direct support (DS), general support (GS), and service (also known as collection and classification) companies under a unified training program. The concept, which was introduced in 1997 at Fort McCoy, uses USAR soldiers and facilities to support USAR installations and to rebuild and overhaul USAR equipment, thus saving limited USAR funds.
Integrated Sustainment Maintenance
OPW focuses on developing a model USAR integrated sustainment maintenance (ISM) annual training operation. Sustainment maintenance includes all maintenance performed above the DS level, including GS, depot, and contractor maintenance. Under ISM, basic requirements are defined to ensure that sustainment maintenance is conducted as efficiently as possible in support of current Army missions. The efforts of all sustainment maintenance repair facilities are coordinated by a single, stratified management structure. The Army implemented the ISM 4 years ago after testing proved its effectiveness.
OPW also focuses on the technical maintenance mission. Soldiers receive sustainment training in their MOS's, which results in a better trained force and helps retain soldiers in the Army Reserve. With OPW comes a new challenge to the Army Reserve to maintain the high level of credibility and standards that were ingrained in the soldiers when they originally trained at Camp Dodge. OPW currently is in its infancy, so many issues and concerns are being worked out to maintain the high level of training that the Army Reserve requires and demands. Soldiers will be required to implement production and unit goals, a process most soldiers become familiar with when they rotate to Camp Dodge or NTC. There they also learn to complete reports such as daily updates on work orders, parts, and man-hours using the Standard Army Maintenance System-Level 1 (SAMS_1).
USARC is coordinating various DS- and GS-level work orders during annual training cycles. Presently, DS-level mechanics rotating to Fort Hunter Liggett can expect to work on 3-kilowatt generator sets, gas-to-diesel conversion, and conversion of the M101A2 trailer to the M101A3. The DS mechanics also will support the equipment concentration site at Fort Hunter Liggett. The 63d Regional Support Command has relocated some of its mechanics to Fort Hunter Liggett to provide maintenance support. The DS mechanics also will provide area recovery support to the installation. There also is a collection and classification mission at Fort Hunter Liggett, and controlled cannibalization of equipment is implemented there during annual training.
The 387th and 521st Maintenance Battalions together held an initial planning conference at Los Alamitos, California, last November. All 11 customer units were represented, and selected representatives from Fifth Army, USARC, various regional support commands, and battalion staffs also were present. The OPW mission involves 6 of the 10 regional support commands.
The 387th Maintenance Battalion rotated to Fort Hunter Liggett for OPW in June and July. The 387th Maintenance Battalion is scheduled to head up the OPW mission at Fort Hunter Liggett for the next 3 years. The Fort McCoy OPW mission began in May and continues through August. Currently, OPW is being implemented only at Fort McCoy and Fort Hunter Liggett, but USARC plans to establish a similar program at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in the next few years. Because OPW is a unique program in the Army Reserve, it is sure to grow even more in the next few years.
During training year 1999, 11 maintenance companies will participate in OPW. The 521st Maintenance Battalion will have eight companies assigned to it this year. In addition, the 521st will integrate a German Army Reserve unit into OPW. The 387th Maintenance Battalion, under the 63d Regional Support Command, will host three maintenance companies at Fort Hunter Liggett. Each company will send only a slice of its unit to participate in OPW.
The 521st Maintenance Battalion is hosting units assigned to the 88th, 90th, 94th, and 99th Regional Support Commands at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, in 1999. The 387th Maintenance Battalion is hosting units assigned to the 223d and 271st Maintenance Companies (DS) and the 850th Service Company (Collection and Classification). This type of cooperation between maintenance units helps to build communications in the maintenance career field and assists the maintenance battalions by providing better quality training programs in the Army Reserve.
The maintenance companies participating in OPW in 1999 also will rotate to their primary annual training events, such as Exercise Roving Sands or an NTC rotation. Company commanders, who are responsible for all routine missions, must make sure their soldiers are placed in annual training slots that benefit the unit as well as the soldiers.
Benefits of OPW
As OPW is implemented, the readiness of maintenance battalions will improve. This new concept eventually will evolve into year-round training for soldiers in the maintenance career field. In addition, Reserve soldiers are fixing USAR equipment during annual training and during weekends of inactive duty training, which results in a substantial saving to the Government and the USAR.
In the future, it is hoped that all five maintenance battalions will be allowed to meet at an annual conference to coordinate with USARC on training opportunities for soldiers in the maintenance career field. In addition, such a conference would allow the maintenance battalions to share experiences and programs that have had excellent results. This type of partnership among maintenance battalions only can benefit the Army Reserve, especially at this time when we are doing more with less. One thing is for certain: the future looks challenging and rewarding for maintenance battalions. ALOG
Major Sandra J. Raveling is the Executive Officer of the 387th Maintenance Battalion, 63d Regional Support Command, Los Alamitos, California. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from San Diego State University and a master's degree in special education from Chapman University in Orange, California. She is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Reserve Component Multifunctional Course, and the Army Logistics Management College's Associate Logistics Executive Development Course.