Fort McCoy News August 08, 2014

MATES provides ready-to-use equipment for units

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The Wisconsin Army National Guard's Manuever Area Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Fort McCoy has nearly every type of motor vehicle in the Army inventory ready for training use at the installation.

Photo for MATES article
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Nohr, field maintenance supervisor, does a walking inspection of tactical vehicles at the Wisconsin National Guard's Manuever Area Training Equipment Site at Fort McCoy.

"Essentially, we maintain prepositioned equipment for all the Wisconsin Guard units that come to Fort McCoy to train," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Nohr, MATES field maintenance supervisor. "And we don't just support our Guard units. Our equipment usage includes supporting Reserve and active-duty units as well."

The MATES facility was established at Fort McCoy in 1949 when a four-bay maintenance building was built. Since then, there have been numerous upgrades and expansion during the 1970s, 1990s and in recent years. The facility now occupies 8.5 acres of the post's cantonment area and has more than 50 employees.

"The National Guard mandates that we keep 33 percent of its equipment here instead of units keeping large amounts of equipment at their facilities," Nohr said. "Having the pre-positioned equipment here allows units to come to Fort McCoy and train, and it saves the government and taxpayers money by not having to move equipment during troop movements."

In the early days of the MATES facility, equipment in their large inventory included M4A1, M4A3, M24 and M47 tanks as well as M59 and M75 troop carriers, World War II-era Jeeps, truck transports and artillery pieces.

Today, the impressive amount of equipment maintained and stored by MATES includes M1151A1 High-Mobility, Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles; M923A2 Mine-Protected Clearance Vehicles; M1078 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles; and MK3 Vehicle Mounted Mine Detectors.

Photo for MATES article
Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Boutin, maintenance inspector, works on a military vehicle at the Manuever Area Training Equipment Site.

Also included are cargo trucks of every size (including trailers), towed howitzers, the Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Improved Target Acquisition System (a newer version of the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-command-linked-guided missile system), and significant quantities of combat engineer equipment such as bulldozers, bucket loaders, compactors, excavators and scrapers.

All the equipment at MATES is available for any training unit — regardless of service — to sign out once they have approval from the units that own the equipment.

"We have a lot here, and our folks are always busy making sure our equipment is consistently ready," Nohr said. "A good example of how we've shared equipment took place during recent large exercises (Combat Support Training Exercise and Warrior Exercise). There were units here from across the country, and we were able to help them have what they needed while they trained."

Spc. Brad Bries, a surface maintenance mechanic for MATES, said the work they provide in keeping the fleet of equipment ready cannot be completed during the typical Guard activation times of one weekend a month, and two weeks a year.

"Having us here full-time allows us to have equipment ready all the time because it's a necessity," Bries said. "When units can come here, sign out their equipment, and go on with training, that just makes everything go smoother."

Providing maintenance for all their equipment also means having to keep up on the latest practices, said MATES Maintenance Inspector Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Boutin. Every time a new piece of equipment arrives at the facility, MATES staff completes maintenance training courses for that equipment.

Boutin described some of their maintenance procedures.

"When a vehicle is turned back in from training, we'll go through the checklist for the vehicle and look for any faults," Boutin said. "If we find any faults, we'll order the parts needed and get it fixed as soon as those parts come back in. When units check out their equipment, they have their own maintenance people who take care of it.

"When it comes back to us, however, we go through that equipment and make sure it's ready for the next time it needs to be used."

In his more than 20 years of working on Army equipment, many of those years with MATES, Boutin said he's seen a lot of changes.

"Our equipment today has gone more electronic," he said. "But that also comes with the understanding that we have more technical pieces of equipment to meet today's missions required by the Army."

Sgt. 1st Class Joel Nyhus, also a surface maintenance mechanic, recently worked on taking out an engine on a M1075 Palletized Load System vehicle.

He said taking out the massive diesel engine alone is about a 12-hour job, but they all work together to get the task completed as quickly as possible.

"It's a big job on a big piece of equipment," Nyhus said. "Our work here can be a busy, complicated process for some equipment.

"However, we do have a great team of people here who work hard to keep the equipment working."

Nohr said everyone in the MATES complex knows they have an important role in supporting the training mission at Fort McCoy.

Whether it's signing out equipment or maintaining it, it's all about maintaining readiness for future operations.

"Our equipment can be called up for use at any time," Nohr said. "We know the work we provide has long-lasting effects for future missions, and we are always ready to meet that challenge."

For more information about the MATES mission and capabilities, call 608-388-3775.