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8 Aug 02. Soldiers from Fort Hood’s 4th Infantry Division, and soon the rest of the Army, will now get help if their track or wheeled vehicle breaks down in training and deployed areas.

Help will come in the way of a mobile maintenance shop on wheels called Forward Repair System, Heavy or FRSH. It’s carried by a palletized load system, and can be operational within five minutes once on the ground.

With its on-board crane, air compressor, 30-kilowatt tactically quiet generator, welder and full compliment of diagnostic and hand tools, the FRSH’s two-person crew will be equipped for most maintenance tasks, said FRSH instructor Mark Koker.

Before the FRSH, soldiers had to wait for a wrecker to retrieve the broke-down vehicle and tow it back to the shop for repairs. The FRSH eliminates that trip.

“Instead of going out to a site just to tow a track or other vehicle back to the rear, the (FRSH) crew can go out to the site, fix what’s wrong right then and there, and be done,” said Koker. “The whole idea is to be able to take the shop to the downed vehicle.”

The FRSH concept has been in the works for nearly two years. The 4th Inf. Div. at Fort Hood, Texas has worked with four previous prototypes during the past 18 months incorporating improvements. Those prototypes have seen action in desert conditions at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., and numerous other field exercises.
The final product is now being issued to the 4th Inf. Div.’s forward support units.

The FRSHs follow vehicles just like a rucksack follows an infantryman,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tomas Erazo, Division Support Command’s sergeant major. “With these FRSHs soldiers will be faster and better equipped to complete a recovery mission.”

The FRSH is designed to provide more support and repairs than previous contact maintenance shops. The new contact shops, which are mounted on Humvees, are used for repairs requiring two hours or less work. The new shops come equipped with an assortment of tools, an air compressor, welder, cutting torch, lights, etc.

“With the FRSH we can do so much more than with the contact truck,” said Pfc. Gary Penyack, a tank mechanic with Co. C, 204th FSB. “With a contact truck we could just do the basics. With this we can do so much more.”

The generator has both AC and DC voltage capabilities. The crane can lift up to 10,000 pounds, up to 14 feet in height. The FRSH’s crane has the power to remove an entire power pack (engine and transmission) from most tracked vehicles, Koker said.

The FRSH has built in air hoses, and hoses for the cutting and welding torch. Even the storage drawers are padded with polyethylene foam for the tools housed in their own designated cutout for fast retrieval.
Recently, soldiers from 204th Forward Support Battalion attended two-week training classes to familiarize themselves with the FRSH and learn operator maintenance.

“I think this is best idea the Army has come up with,” said Pfc. James Nelson, a track-vehicle mechanic with Co. D., 4th FSB. “It’s just like a ‘mini-garage’ on wheels. It has everything you’d need while out in the field. We’re just like the Army’s AAA roadside assistance crew.”

The next few years will see pproximately 280 FRSHs be fielded Armywide. Fort Lewis, Wash. is next on the list to receive them, Koker said.

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