FORT LEE, Va. -- Several artillery pieces and vintage rifles used by the Army’s famed Old Guard ceremonial unit recently made their way to a maintenance shop here for a little TLC.
The weapons – 106 Brown Bess replica small arms and five M101A1 howitzers, thus far – were refurbished and painted at the Logistics Readiness Center-Lee Maintenance Division on Front Access Road. The facility is operated by The Logistics Company, an installation contractor.
The Old Guard, also known by its official designation as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, is the oldest active unit in the Army. Its world-renowned ceremonial element is responsible for everything from White House state visits to Fourth of July parades to dignified transfers for the fallen. The weapons are both uniform-item and salute-gun showpieces at those events.
Brian Minix, LRC logistics management specialist, said the Old Guard came to them in October 2017 looking for a cost-effective way to complete the refurbishment work requirements as an alternative to outsourcing. The first job took about nine months and involved staining and replacing parts as well other upgrades to the small arms pieces. Minix said the customers lauded the finished products.
“We’ve had nothing but praise from the Old Guard about the craftsmanship and workmanship,” he said.
Following completion of the Brown Bess work, Old Guard personnel inquired about painting the howitzers. One was completed as a test and the unit contracted for nine more. Just over half of that project has been completed.
Tim Jones, a retired sailor and master painter, is performing the howitzer work. He said the pieces required preparation, painting and laying on a protective finish. All of the sanding was done by hand.
“I’m old-school,” Jones said, “so I like to feel what I’m working on rather than using the pneumatic machine because it can take more material off of the equipment than I want. Plus, it leaves swirl marks.”
According to Jones, it takes roughly two, eight-hour days to sand the artillery pieces. “The work is intricate, and you need to be familiar with the little ins and outs,” he said, referring to all the corners and crevices on the howitzers.
Each step in the process is delicate but painting requires a lot of attention to detail, he further noted. “You don’t want runs in your base coat or clear coat. You just want that smooth, satin finish all over.”
The paint used on the pieces is heat-resistant because fired projectiles in rapid succession generate high temperatures.
Each howitzer takes roughly two-and-a-half weeks to complete. Jones said he likes to add a bit of a personal touch for the customer such as “shinning the brass and metal so when they come to inspect it, they’ll be satisfied with the finished product.”
Jones concluded that each finished piece is a culmination of his experience and expertise.
“It makes me proud because I’m a 20-year veteran, and I was always told to do the best job you can do, regardless of what you’re working on,” he said. “To me, when I look at the work I do, I still feel like I’m doing something for the country; still doing my part.”
The Maintenance Division performs a wide range of support – such as painting, small arms repair, automotive repair and night vision goggles repair – for customers located in the central and north part of the state.
The LRC is overseen by the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, based at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. It is part of an organization that integrates installation logistical functions including food service, ammunition supply, clothing issue, hazardous material handling, bulk fuel and more. The LRC concept, according to a command fact sheet, has reduced redundancy, standardized processes and improved contract management, among other benefits. Read more at www.aschq.army.mil/home/default.aspx.