Material Handling Equipment keeps PPB on the move

By Keith Hayes

One department touches virtually every piece of equipment, vehicle and part used at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, located aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif.

The Material Handling Equipment section at PPB uses forklifts, portable cranes, tractors, trucks and the 75 ton crane in building 573, to move vehicles being worked to the crane way in building 573 and to the various facility back shops as well as bringing parts and other materials needed to complete almost any project.

Larry Graves, supervisor of the MHE section, said this is one department that interacts with every other department at the Plant. “We assist in the disassembly process (of vehicles) with our portable cranes. We also move vehicles to the back shops if steaming or blasting is needed,” he said. “We pretty much touch every piece of equipment used in vehicle production at the Plant.”

“An M88 (tank retriever) weighs in at about 75 tons when fully combat loaded,” he explained, “and it has to be moved either by another M88, the CAT 988 or the main crane in the Plant.”

Preparing a vehicle for operation also involves MHE bringing the artisans the material they need to get the vehicle moving.  “If someone needs fuel or antifreeze, we take the portable tanks out to them,” Graves said.

The people working under Graves’ supervision include forklift operators, tractor operators, riggers, crane operators, motor vehicle operators, and laborers, all with the mindset of getting what is needed to where it should be within the Plant to accomplish the job.

“The job is not difficult most of the time,” said Carl Padilla, a portable crane operator, “except when it’s windy, or hot, or the equipment you’re picking up is very heavy. You can burn yourself climbing up on the vehicles when the temperature is 110 degrees.”

One office within MHE organizes what appears to be chaos into a smooth functioning system of getting the vehicle and materiel to the artisans.

“I get between 100 and 200 requests a day to send out equipment to move a vehicle or other materials,” said Artie Rodriguez, the dispatcher for MHE. “All requests for service come in and out through this place. It’s a huge responsibility.”

Rodriguez said he works well under pressure while trying to coordinate several different pieces of equipment to work on one job. “Trying to figure out how to coordinate a request for a lowboy (trailer), a mule (tractor) and a forklift and get them all to the place so the crane operator can finish doing the job is challenging.”

One common mission which is shared by everyone in MHE is safety said Graves.

“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “We hold safety briefings every morning. The job we do is dangerous. We’re in an industrial area and we have to have safe equipment and safe way of doing things; safety either through engineering when the equipment is built or through the procedure we use to move equipment or through PPE (personal protective equipment).”

“Safety is always important,” agreed Padilla, as he prepared to lift an engine from an amphibious assault vehicle with a portable crane. “You never know when a cable will break or something may fall off. You have to be observant.”

Graves said the MHE section is vital to the operation of PPB, like blood moving oxygen to all parts of the body.

“We pretty much touch every piece of equipment, from a frame or a hull to a cab to the pallets, the trains, the parts, we touch every piece of it,” Graves said. “The Material Handling Equipment department is the backbone of Production Plant Barstow.”

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow website.