World Corrosion Awareness Day — Why this is a thing

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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This is just a sample of the equipment stored under corrosion preventing conditions by the Kentucky Army National Guard at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. Corrosion is a worldwide problem, consuming our infrastructure and threatening our military gear. On a daily basis the Kentucky Guard has to protect more than $100 million worth of equipment from falling prey to corrosion. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Riddle me this: What ensures combat readiness, preserves our equipment, protects the environment, and saves taxpayers a whole lotta money?

Answer:  corrosion awareness!

Okay, bad joke.  But the truth of the matter is, corrosion awareness is no  joke.  In fact, today — April 24, 2015 — is World Corrosion Awareness Day.  Not just for the National Guard, not just for the United States Army, but for the whole world.

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Chief Warrant Officer Gregg Blakeley checks the status of an M1117 Armored Security Vehicle. More than $100 million worth of vehicles and gear are under daily monitoring for corrosion by Kentucky National Guard personnel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

So, what’s the big deal?  Well, corrosion costs nearly $4 trillion worldwide each year, which makes for the big deal.  Corrosion eats away at our infrastructure, our bridges, rail systems, pipelines, you name it.  Given enough time and neglect, our technological society and way of life are at risk, threatened by corrosion and its aftereffects.

Okay, so that’s why corrosion awareness is important.  But now you may ask, what’s that got to do with the Kentucky National Guard?

The answer: plenty.

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One of the best kept secrets about the Kentucky National Guard is our corrosion protection program.  At Fort Knox and the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center we have established long-term corrosion protection measures that are essential to our war-fighting mission.

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Staff Sgt. Eric Miers checks the controlled humidity protection hose hooked up to an M109 Paladin at the Mobilization and Training Equipment Site at Fort Knox. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Kehl)

“We’ve got twelve Paladins and twelve ammo carriers worth about thirty million dollars,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Gividen, artillery shop supervisor at the Kentucky Guard’s Mobilization and Training Equipment Site at Fort Knox.  “There’s another forty million in HIMARS rocket launchers, too.  Add on all of the other equipment we’re signed for, that’s more than one hundred million dollars of the taxpayers’ dollars that we have to protect.

“That’s a huge investment in the Guard and a great responsibility for our shop.”

Gividen’s team of eight mechanics focuses primarily on artillery.  They keep the M109A6 Paladins hooked up to a controlled humidity protection system, which keeps the interior of the vehicles dry and tight.  The complex series of  overgrown hoses are hooked up to hatches and the muzzles of the gun barrels, connected to what amounts to a giant dehumidifier.  The soldiers do daily checks to ensure everything is sealed up right.

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From HUMVEES and ASVs to high dollar HIMARS launchers, more than $100 million worth of vehicles and gear are under daily monitoring for corrosion by Kentucky National Guard personnel.  (Photo courtesy Kentucky National Guard UTES)

“The CHP system does its part, but people are still essential to the process,” said Gividen.  “It’s our job to keep all of this equipment in combat ready status, so all the troops have to do is come in, do some PMCS [preventive maintenance checks and services] and go train or deploy.”

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers are kept in a giant warehouse-like building with controlled temperature environment that protects them from weather and moisture.  The latest in artillery technology, they are precise and accurate and battlefield proven.  At $2.5 million apiece, they are also very expensive.  Warrant Officer William Cottrell, work group leader at the MATES artillery shop, emphasizes the sensitive nature of the systems they are charged with protecting.

“There are a lot of computer components in these systems,” he said.  “Replacing one computer box on HIMARS can run hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This isn’t our money we’re talking about; it’s the taxpayers’.  We work hard to make sure there aren’t any problems.”

“Our CHPs and OP [operation preservation] lines provide us with a distinct advantage during these challenging times in our operating environment, to preserve equipment for much longer periods of time and reduce our overall maintenance costs exponentially,” said Maj. Steven Engels, Surface Maintenance Manager for the Kentucky Guard. “With the likelihood that equipment modernization will decrease in the future due to budget constraints, preserving and maintaining the equipment that we have is as important as ever to respond to potential domestic natural disasters in support of civil authorities as well as military missions across the world.”