Bringing new life to old and dilapidated military vehicles is the name of the game for the Tactical Automotive Section of the 407th Army Field Support Battalion.
âI was that kid who would assemble miniature cars and paint them. I can do it for real now, âsaid Gary Pasley of restoring military vehicles for a living.
The Principal Painter is one of four restoration experts who are currently restoring military vehicles that will be on display at the upcoming National Mounted Warrior Museum.
The TAS receives the vehicles, strips them to the metal, then restores them to a new appearance by resurfacing them with new coats of paint.
âIt’s old equipment, so sometimes we have to do welding, fabrication, trying to make it as original as possible,â said Rex Wheeler, TAS supervisor. âThe worst is to clean them because they are usually quite rusty or the paint is peeling. It is a rather difficult task.
Wheeler said each vehicle takes around 300 man hours. If interior restoration is also involved, the process can take even longer.
Each vehicle also comes with its share of historical research, which can be time consuming in itself. Wheeler explained that his team try to make each vehicle as authentic as possible, for the period it was in service.
âWe try to make sure the details are correct, especially for museum pieces. Getting the correct period, especially with lettering, stencil, paint, and colors, takes time. We do a lot of research, âhe explained. âPaint schemes are determined based on the period in which they served. You can have four M1s, but they served in different areas and times, so it depends on how they’re painted. “
Some vehicles are also unique because of what they’ve been through. Pasley shared the experience of the recent restoration of the “Last Vehicle Out of Iraq,” a mine-resistant and ambush-protected Caiman Plus vehicle, or MRAP. The MRAP was assigned to C Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, when it left Iraq at Khabari Crossing on December 18, 2011. The unit had hand painted “Last Vehicle Out of Iraq” from the MRAP side.
After sanding and repainting the MRAP, the vehicle’s restoration team went to great lengths to make sure they painted the lettering to look exactly the same as it did the day it was painted. left Iraq almost 10 years ago. The vehicle is expected to be one of the vehicles featured in the new museum, which will have its smooth opening in 2022 and fully open in 2023.
The CAS crew recently restored the M1E1 Abrams experimental tank in front of the Marvin Leath visitor center, as well as the M60A3 tank and M18 Hellcat tank destroyer outside III Corps headquarters.
Wheeler said the M60A3 was missing the M50 machine gun that mounts to the commander’s cupola, so they had to research and find an alternative.
âWe found pictures of an original gun online and our machinist, Ricky Poste, used an unusable barrel from a newer gun to make the barrel for the original gun,â Wheeler explained. “With the cannon mounted on the tank, it looks like the machine gun is present.”
The machine gun’s research, fabrication, painting, assembly and rework took the crew approximately 55 hours, not including the hours it took to restore the rest of the M60A3.
âIt’s all about attention to detail,â Wheeler said. âI definitely have a good team. These guys are doing a fabulous job.
After weeks of hard work restoring a vehicle, painter Dave Stidham said it was all worth it, which Pasley agreed to.
âWhen they (the applicant) come in and see it for the first time and we see their enthusiasm,â Pasley said, âit makes us feel good.â