United States and coalition forces have become
increasingly focused on self-sustaining operations.
The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq requires the expansion of some sustainment capabilities, including power generation. Coalition forces at forward operating bases (FOBs) and joint security stations (JSSs) have a great need for more generator power. Many FOBs and JSSs have little or no capability to generate power to support daily living and day-to-day operations.
The Power Generation Problem
Recognizing the scarcity of power generation capability, the forward support company (FSC) assigned to the 5th Engineer Battalion developed Operation Kilowatt to build power generation capability within its area of operations.
The power generation capability gap in Iraq became evident in December 2008 after the 5th Engineer Battalion had been deployed for 8 months. With the support of the 25th Infantry Division, the battalion’s FSC began repairing not mission capable (NMC) generators located at FOBs and JSSs. The FSC’s task was to travel to FOBs and JSSs that were identified as having little to no generator power, make an initial assessment, and perform any necessary repairs.
The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) became a major resource for the project. A total of 10 NMC generators were drawn from DRMS, and of those 10, 3 were refurbished into fully mission capable generators and redistributed to locations that needed them. The FSC created a service packet for the generators that included a maintenance and service checklist as well as elimination criteria. The common systemic problems found with DRMS generators and other generators throughout the process were faulty wiring, missing major components, and old age.
Mobile Generator Repair Station
Another key issue was determining the right equipment for repairing generators on site. The initial plan was to transform an RG–31 Mk3 mine-protected armored personnel carrier into a mobile generator repair station. Temporary shelves and compartments were fabricated and mounted inside the back of the truck, which allowed for additional storage of parts and tools. Bench stock and an authorized stockage list (ASL) were formed by determining the systemic problems and identifying the parts needed to address those problems, such as filters and electrical components.
An air compressor and pressure washer were also built into the truck. Pieces of equipment that are exposed to the desert elements are constantly caked in dust and sand, making it difficult to identify leaks or other faults. The air compressor and pressure washer increased productivity and decreased the time it took to diagnose NMC generators.
Because RG–31 Mk3 vehicles were eventually required to be turned in, a second mobile generator repair station prototype was developed in mid-April. After many days of brainstorming and searching the motor pool for a replacement, the FSC decided that a welding trailer could be converted into a mobile generator repair station.
The four compartments on the sides of the welding trailer already contain general toolkits and an air compressor. The inside is also large enough for a small generator and a 55-gallon water drum for the pressure washer. The trailer’s advantages are its ability to be towed behind most vehicles, its tremendous storage capability, and its multifunctionality, which makes it easy to convert back to a dedicated welding trailer if necessary. However, a few disadvantages do exist: the bench stock and ASL on the trailer often need to be tailored to the type of generator that mechanics are currently working on, and depending on the type of generator, space may be limited for storing generator-specific parts.
The mobile generator repair station was successfully hauled behind a gun truck and driven to locations that needed power generators. In 4 months, the FSC repaired 20 generators. Of those, 16 had been deemed unfit for repair because of elimination criteria established in the service packet. The project matured leagues beyond what was expected.
Operation Kilowatt is an economic reconstruction program that can help both coalition forces and the Iraqi Army with generator repair. Operation Kilowatt could become an enabler for the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone and local merchants. The project also has the potential to save a significant amount of money by refurbishing and repairing generators rather than purchasing new ones. The success of Operation Kilowatt is proof that a mobile generator repair trailer is efficient and produces positive results. The hard work put into the operation significantly enhanced the quality of life for units stationed at outlying posts.