Army maintenance: ingenuity and functionality. An anecdote ...

(To Gianluca Celentano)

Although the reorganization of the Armed Forces and in particular of the Army has changed or replaced several tasks with more advanced ones, what is left of the procedure foreseen for the maintenance of the vehicles?

Digitization does not change the method

It is well known that the military organization is almost infallible in the management of resources and personnel and justifies several indispensable bureaucratic steps (not to be confused with passing the buck). At the basis of the rules issued there is an objective reasoning, apparently too scrupulous, but certainly studied to guarantee the efficiency of the materials over time and in operational use.

In the regiments, the yellowed paper models filled in with pen have given way to computer archives and programs software which issue printouts for authorizations or maintenance deadlines, always managed by the vehicle office. The signature of the person concerned and the conductor is enough to carry on the concept of efficiency that has been handed down from the existence of motorization in the Armed Forces.

The levels of maintenance

Some readers will seem to take a leap into the past in hearing terminologies and acronyms that are still alive today when it comes to cataloging the conditions of vehicles that do not result in technical stoppage or alienated.

Many of you will remember the various maintenance stages planned in the battalions or regiments and carried out by theVehicle office, often headed by a marshal or senior sergeant major.

The technical steps, according to rumors and confidences, are five, some performed in the regiments, others delegates outside.

It must be said that a certain "managerial autonomy" in the regiments has made it possible to manage some problems differently and faster (at least so it should be) than in the past, where the number of vehicles and soldiers that could be used was greater.

La MO (ordinary maintenance): it is closely linked to the tenant before, during and after the service. This means that there is a preventive planning of use drawn up by the vehicle office and that the tenant is required to know in order to be able to organize. While at the time of the draft, the personal organization always passed from the approval of a superior (also for the addition of engine oil), with the professionalization and the numerous courses given by the SME, the military conductor has more knowledge and more decision-making autonomy.

La MS (specialized maintenance): substantially equivalent to coupons and is an operation carried out by the maintenance post of the department. It is carried out at precise mileage and time intervals as soon as the alert attributable to the vehicle license plate is displayed.

  • 1st degree repairs: this “more specialized” category includes all workshop interventions that can be resolved within 24 hours and are carried out by the RR platoon (repairs and recovery) of the department or support departments.
  • 2nd degree repairs: the competence passes to the logistic regiments for interventions that exceed 48 hours, the Maneuvering departments are also able to carry out recovery by towing of the vehicles that have remained stationary.

For the most important repairs: we rely on another passage, the CERIMANT departments or maintenance sections located throughout the territory and, should the need arise, the authorized civil assistance network.

Today, although in the Weapons (in particular the Infantry and Engineers) and Specialties of the Army there is a perceptible transversal competence on specific systems and means, the departments at the apex of maintenance competence are still managed by the Weapon of transport and materials, the drivers.

The interaction with the civil assistance network for the repair of military vehicles assumes an important reference also for the containment of expenditure and the optimization of the number of soldiers employed in the services. A passage that in many cases has certainly streamlined the imaginable delays, but which at the same time has seen the closure of many maintenance realities at the battalion level, perhaps creating a vulnerability. Not really good in some ways.

The duties of the tenant

In the vademecum of the military conductor issued in 1966 by the then IMAR office, the duties listed are not very different from today. In fact, the ten points contained in the historical vademecum provide that the driver must check the levels, make sure the vehicle is clean, check for any anomalies and tire pressure, while as regards behavioral rules, punctuality is clearly as sacrosanct as the posture while driving. The concept of safe driving, that is, that the hands that hold the steering wheel must always be in opposition to each other, the backrest almost vertical and the elbows not too far from the hips.

A story with a happy ending

Vincenzo, for friends Pine, is a lieutenant of the autieri on leave for several years. He tells me a nice episode about the art of knowing how to make do with our Army. It was the early 80s when Vincenzo was a 27-year-old young sergeant major in charge of accounting for the RR platoon in a broadcasting battalion.

The preparation: “One autumn of the 80s, our battalion participated in an exercise of the 3rd Army Corps in an operational area of ​​the Veneto. the day before departure, from Milan to the logistics base of Arlesega, a small fraction of Mestrino in the province of Padua, everything was ready. The auto-column, made up of about 40 vehicles for the transport of useful materials (trailers, shelters, etc.) to make radio and pontiradio connections, was lined up in the courtyard of the barracks, ready for departure. Last checks on the vehicles involved, then the signs as per code, IC FC on the first at the head (beginning of the column - end of the column) and FC IC on the last ".

Ready to move: "Outside the column at a distance of one kilometer, there was an AG70 (rescue crane), an AR59 driven by me, with two military vehicle mechanics on board, and an ACM52 with a load of boxes with compartments for auto parts of which I was responsible. We had to be ready to intervene for any damaged vehicles. At 07,00 we left and took the highway to Venice ".

The damage: “An ACP70 stops due to a mechanical breakdown near Brescia and was rescued by our AG70 which pulls it towards Arlesega, the logistics base of the btg. Then, at the height of Verona, we notice a military vehicle approached in the emergency lane. It was our ACM52. With the AR59 and the ACM52 spare parts we stop behind and see the breakage of the self-locking bolts of the rear drive shaft ”.

Operation and ingenio: "Brief consultation with the mechanical military ...
1) detach the rear shaft and run the vehicle with front-wheel drive only until the next motorway exit? hypothesis rejected;
2) wait for the return of the AG70? but there was talk of staying there at least another 4/5 hours. Hypothesis rejected;
3) Repair the fault on site? Accepted if bolts are found.

It was necessary to identify among all the boxes containing more than a thousand spare parts, the self-locking bolts necessary for the repair.
I got on the ACM52 spare parts box and almost in the dark and helped by a supplied torch, I opened the boxes and shortly after I identified the bolt compartment.
Maybe luck, maybe experience also because among the thousands of spare parts we had, I already knew I had 30 self-locking bolts for the transmission shaft.
Me and the mechanical soldiers in less than half an hour we made the repair. Our hands and faces were completely dirty with grease ”.

It resumes and comes the satisfaction of the commander: “Leaving the lay-by, we resumed the journey in complete tranquility, we arrived at the Arlesega base with only 2 hours late.
Small detail: as soon as we entered the base, the colleagues and the commander gave us a warm and fraternal applause ".

Vincenzo adds his consideration: “At the helm of the ACM52s and the mechanics themselves, there were conscripts who were 19/20 years old, I would say they were really good.
For me it was an experience that I always remember with pride as I was not a mechanic, but simply an accountant of the RR platoon.
But could I do all this now? I believe not, also because at that time heavy vehicle traffic was certainly less than the current traffic and speeds on our motorways.
Although we had implemented all the safety regulations of the period, perhaps there was a bit of recklessness on our part?
I hope that the reader understands the emotional state and responsibility in which young people between the ages of 19 and 20 have found themselves. I was 27 years old. Everything is good what ends well ".

Thanks Pino, from your story I believe that even the readers will perceive that spirit of body and that climate of genuine solidarity that you have transmitted for generations during the military service!

Photo: web / Italian Army