REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. –
In the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020, members of the Army Security Assistance Enterprise (ASAE) team overcame significant pandemic-induced hurdles, along with quality control and transportation challenges, to deliver more than 30 military trucks to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
“These are the first deliveries of 100 2½- and 5-ton FMTV trucks delivered to Lebanon, just in time to meet the timeline for training, and in response to the Lebanese Armed Forces request following the port explosion,” said Dave Dornblaser, director of the Army Security Assistance Command’s Washington Field office.
According to Dornblaser these “Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles” trucks were procured and delivered under Section 333: Authority to Build Capacity, in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
As in any process with hundreds of touch points within the Defense Department, the defense industrial base, manufacturers, global logistics and transportation companies, country teams, port scheduling, and partner requirements, getting to a delivery can be a long and complicated process.
“This foreign military sales case was developed in August 2018, and awarded to the vehicle contractor in June 2019. By November 2020 the first 31 vehicles were built and loaded on ships,” said Kristin Ruehlen, program officer at Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s Security Assistance Management Directorate (SAMD).
These trucks are part of the Army’s FMTV line of military vehicles designed with standardized parts between multiple bodies, helping to lower maintenance costs and simplify the training requirements. These trucks are also designed to support the installation of additional armor and glass, known as “B” kits, which are installed to protect the cabin and occupants.
Lebanon will be able to use the multi-faceted trucks for military logistic support, humanitarian relief, and with an up-armored cabin, for troop transport and military operations.
Unfortunately, when the FMTVs were being assembled, the truck manufacturer detected flaws in the transparent armor glass. Had it not been for the dedicated ASAE workforce, those flaws could have resulted in major production and shipping delays.
“For TACOM [U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command] the most challenging aspect of this case was the need to quickly develop a corrective action plan for the armor B-kits that were received defective from the manufacturer and ensure that the corrective action could be completed in time for the vehicles to be delivered to support a SATMO [U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization] training program,” Ruehlen said.
It was that extra effort by the Central Command team at USASAC Redstone, country case managers and transportation experts at USASAC New Cumberland, TACOM SAMD program managers, the Army Contracting Command, and the Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Services Support team, which allowed these trucks to even be delivered.
Gregory Loyd, USASAC’s country program manager for the last 10 months of this case, knew the impact a delay would have on Lebanon’s counterterrorism capabilities.
“These vehicles are in direct support of the Integrated Country Strategy, which states that the Lebanese security forces be more capable of disrupting terrorist networks and repelling terrorist attacks,” said Loyd.
Kelly Sowell, an assistant program manager at Program Executive Office for Combat Support & Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), and his team, were the liaisons between USASAC, TACOM SAMD, and Army Contracting Command (ACC) on this Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case, when the transparent armor glass defect was identified.
“The vehicles and armor B-kits were procured under two separate contracts from two different manufacturers,” Sowell said. “The initial armor kits arrived to Oshkosh with glass defects that would have been unacceptable to the customer. In order to meet the customer’s schedule, our Multi-Mission Protected Vehicles Systems office developed a plan to bring in replacement transparent armor glass from existing supplies. We were able to replace the defective glass while minimizing delays to the armor install process.”
This involved quick coordination between USASAC, PEO CS&CSS, TACOM SAMD and ACC, to modify contracts, and get the needed supplies to Oshkosh Defense, while simultaneously working with the glass manufacturer to correct the defect.
Overcoming these challenges, the trucks were delivered almost three months early, arriving between December and early January, to the port of Beirut.
While delivery is a critical case milestone, under USASAC’s Total Package Approach, the post-delivery training, and follow-on sustainment support, are equally important considerations to ensure the customer can operate and sustain their equipment.
They were immediately put to use as part of a training program administered by USASAC’s training element, the SATMO, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“This is a good news story because it has been such a long process with some challenges along the way, and we are now finally at the delivery and training phase,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Riordan, the SATMO case manager for the Lebanon FMTV training team.
“The training by our team in country will conclude in fall 2021, after that the LAF will be fully trained up on how to maintain, operate and employ the vehicles in support of their needs,” Riordan said. “These vehicles will enhance the mobility of our partners.”
That mobility is essential to support LAF, and the Lebanese government, which share almost 250 miles of border with war-torn Syria.
“Support to the LAF’s land mobility and logistics are high priority efforts for the U.S. and for the Lebanese Armed Forces as the national force works to modernize itself in the face of multiple crises,” said Army Colonel Robert Meine, the Defense Attaché at U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. “These trucks, widely used by our own military forces, enhance the LAF’s ability to transport equipment and troops throughout all of Lebanon safely, and under the most demanding conditions.”
The timely delivery of these trucks also epitomize the mission of USASAC and the ASAE: to build partner capacity and promote interoperability between U.S. and partner forces.
“Any time we can help an ally field a needed and critical capability, in this case following a massive and tragic event, is a good day,” Loyd added. “The fact that they are up and running this soon after such a catastrophic event is phenomenal.”