By Nathan L. Hanks Jr., Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany
MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA. --
Spearheading the Marine attack on the Southern frontier of Kuwait during the opening moments of Operation Desert Storm has earned Genesis II, M60A1 Main Battle Tank, a permanent place in the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Triangle, Virginia.
The tank, along with an Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Humvee, and M198 Howitzer, are scheduled to be displayed at the museum in November 2018. These items are among many artifacts that will represent Marine Corps history for the time period 1976 to the present.
Restoration of the equipment began here in July 2014, and was completed with a final inspection and hand-off ceremony held Jan. 7 at the Marine Depot Maintenance Command’s production plant.
Production Plant Albany employees restored the tank along with a Humvee and an amphibious assault vehicle, while the artisans at Production Plant Barstow in Barstow, California, restored the M198 Howitzer.
Col. Jeffrey Q. Hooks, commander, MDMC, spoke of the relationship between the museum and MDMC workers.
“We’ve built a great partnership with the National Museum of the Marine Corps over the years and for them to continue to come back year after year is a testament to our dedication and the capabilities resident within Marine Depot Maintenance Command,” Hooks said. “The men and women that tirelessly work at restoring this gear know the history of the vehicles they are working, and one day, they will visit the (museum) with their families or friends and will get to say I helped put that together. I look forward to continuing our partnership with the National Museum of the Marine Corps and helping keep the (museum) the best in the Department of Defense.”
Kater Miller, assistant ordnance curator, National Museum of the Marine Corps, said the M60A1 Main Battle Tank was chosen for the museum because of its documented history in the ground offensive during Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991.
“Genesis II and its crew, attached to Company C, 3rd Tank Battalion, Twentynine Palms, California, were the lead element for Task Force Ripper and led the charge into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia,” Miller said.
After the war, a team of historians marked the tank to be sent back to Quantico, Virginia, to be stored, according to Miller.
Miller, a former Marine Corps Logistics Command employee, is familiar with the capabilities of MDMC -- a subordinate command under LOGCOM -- and requested their assistance in restoring the artifacts.
After seeing the artifacts firsthand, Jody W. Nesbitt, project officer, MDMC, said refurbishing the museum pieces would be a major undertaking -- one he knew MDMC and its employees could handle.
“The M60A1 had been painted over a couple times and there was rust and damage on the exterior,” Nesbitt said. “None of the distinguishing markings were visible, but fortunately we had photographs of the tank during the war to help us replicate the insignias.”
Nesbitt said the tank had corrosion due to sitting out in the weather, so he knew it was going to be a complete “down to the hull” restoration project to meet the museum’s requirement.
“We haven't touched some of these parts in more than 20 years,” he said. “To say the least, a lot of these parts were hard to come by. We even had to fabricate the cover that goes around the gun mantle.”
During the disassembling process, workers removed the turret from the tank and found a map and a pair of goggles used by the crew during Operation Desert Storm, which was turned over to the museum to be displayed with the tank.
Nesbitt recalled the interior of the tank being in good condition, even though it had been exposed to the elements for many years.
“We refurbished the inside of the tank by removing the drivetrain and internal components,” he said. “We restored everything to its original condition to include repainting and stencil work. The Marines had handwritten -- in black marker -- grid coordinates, fire coordinates and markings of how many tanks they had destroyed, on the walls inside of the tank.
“Overall, we were able to take something that had been sitting around rusting and deteriorating and transform it into a functioning and firing combat mechanism, minus the fluids and rings in the motor,” he said.
Nesbitt, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, said he and all the workers had took pride and ownership in helping preserve a part of Marine Corps history.
“I don't think Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm get a lot of attention,” he said. “We have had such a volume of large scale wars go on since that time that it is almost a forgotten piece of history. But for those of us that were there, it is an important part of our life and history.”
After conducting the final inspection of the tank, Miller said he was pleased with the work of the MDMC employees.
“The crew restored the tank, faithfully recreating the markings, inside and out, so that the tank will appear exactly as it did in February 1991,” he said.
Miller explained how the tank will be displayed in the museum.
“We are going to display the tank as it appeared on the morning that it breached the berm separating Saudi Arabia into Kuwait,” he said. “We are going to have cast figures in the tank dressed (exactly) as the crew was during the actual event. We will also outfit the tank with the supplies they stowed over the outside of the tank.”
Miller went on to explain the history of each artifact.
“The Humvee will portray the Marines in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy,” he said. “The Humvee will enable us to showcase the peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions that Marines perform.”
Representing the Marine Corps' focus on amphibious warfare will be the AAV, which also saw combat in Operation Desert Storm as well, Miller added.
“The Iraqi Army hit the AAV with a propelled grenade which rendered it inoperable,” Miller said. “It (was) also (sent) to the Air-Ground Museum, Quantico, Virginia, in 1991, but was recalled to active service the next year.
“The vehicle, which received a new turret and armor, was scheduled to go through an extensive upgrade but was saved by the (amphibian tractor) community, which made sure it ended up back at the museum,” he added.
Like the AAV and M60A1 tank, the M198 Howitzer is also a Desert Storm veteran.
“The M198 Howitzer was part of the battery that fired the first rounds into Kuwait at Iraqi Forces in a series of artillery raids,” Miller said. “In the raids, artillery crewmen drove to a discreet location, set up, conducted a fire mission, packed up and drove away.
“We are going to display this artifact with a crew preparing it for use in an artillery raid,” he said.
Like the AAV, the M198 Howitzer was recalled and received several upgrades. As the Marine Corps transitioned from the M198 to the M777 Howitzer, the museum was able to get it back.
Miller praised all MDMC workers for their dedication and hard work.
“The National Museum of the Marine Corps staff is extremely satisfied with the restoration of the artifacts,” he said. “A museum restoration is not an easy process and refurbishments are time consuming and tedious.
“I do not think it can be stressed enough how important Marine Depot Maintenance Command's work is for the Marines (forward deployed),” he said. “Marine Depot Maintenance Command's staff (in Albany, Georgia and Barstow, California) serves the Marines by providing quality equipment to the warfighters and now they are serving the Marines in a different way, this time by preserving history.”