The people of Anniston Army Depot (ANAD) light-heartedly refer to themselves as the “Pit Crew of the American Warfighter.” But the description is an apt one. Long after an M1 Abrams tank begins a patrol outside Baghdad or a Stryker personnel carrier takes to the road from Jalalabad to Kabul it eventually returns from the field for Reset. When these vehicles come back from far-flung combat zones, they are restored (often to better-than-new condition) and returned to service by Anniston’s “Pit Crew” of skilled technicians.
Anniston is Army Materiel Command’s Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for combat vehicles, artillery, bridging systems, and small-caliber weapons. Its reputation as the “tank rebuild center of the world” stems from a vehicle maintenance and overhaul mission that began in the early 1950s. Today, ANAD’s responsibilities are further reaching, including conversion, upgrade, and new vehicle manufacturing for the full range of Army and Marine Corps tracked vehicles and the Stryker family of wheeled vehicles.
In addition to its core vehicle overhaul role, the depot is responsible for the global distribution, maintenance, and storage of conventional ammunition and missiles. It stored 7 percent of the nation’s chemical munitions stockpile and it is the Department of Defense’s only missile recycling center. Anniston’s major tenants include the Anniston Defense Munitions Center (ADMC), the Anniston Chemical Activity (ANCA), and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)).
Located on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Alabama, ANAD occupies more than 25 square miles of land, encompassing more than 15,246 acres of woodland, and 10 acres of lakes and streams. Approximately 7,000 people work at the depot, which has a $1.15 billion annual operating budget. Anniston’s combination of road, rail, and air access, its technical resources and broadly skilled workforce make it one of the most important logistics assets in TACOM Life Cycle Management Command [LCMC] and within AMC as a whole. And like the NASCAR pit crew that gets its racecar adjusted, re-tired, refueled, and back on the racetrack in minimum time, Anniston’s workforce gets combat vehicles and munitions back on track to support the warfighter.
“Pit, Pit, Pit!”
Listen in on race radio while you’re in the grandstands at a race and you’ll inevitably hear team crew chiefs call, “Pit, Pit, Pit!” as their cars approach the pit apron for a planned green flag or improvised yellow flag stop. Michael Burke is Anniston’s metaphorical crew chief. As the general manager of production operations, he oversees three directorates, including production; engineering and quality; and mission plans and operations, as well as a multitude of support shops. Some 3,500 Army civilian employees under Burke’s direction pull together to refurbish, refit, and Reset a range of vehicles, including the M1 Abrams tank, M113 Armored Personnel Carrier family, M60 Armored Vehicle Launch Bridge (AVLB), M88 Armored Recovery Vehicle, M9 Armored Combat Engineering Vehicle, M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, the M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle (FAASV), and the wheeled M93 Fox and Stryker vehicles.
When any one of these vehicles arrives (usually by rail though some come by truck) at Anniston, it is offloaded by personnel from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and either placed in a dedicated DLA lot or given directly to the depot’s production operation. Inspectors from the directorate of production then do an initial technical inspection of each vehicle, assessing its status and overhaul requirements.
“Generally, it’s to see if there are any major missing components or unusual damage that we weren’t expecting,” Burke explained.
Normally, the inspections turn up expected wear and tear patterns for the vehicle in question. M1 Abrams tanks, which are seeing less usage in Iraq, require less restoration than some of their counterparts. “Instead of doing a complete overhaul on every vehicle we get back, we’re doing more intermediate maintenance,” Burke explained. “For instance, we pull the engines and overhaul the engine and transmission, but we don’t completely disassemble the vehicle, we only fix what’s broken.”