Modernization. Readiness. Innovation. Those are just a few of the terms the U.S. Department of Defense uses when discussing how to prepare for future operations around the world. But what does modernization look like at the National Guard level?
Photo By Capt. Joe Legros | The heavy dump truck arrives in Michigan. The 1434th Engineer Company, Michigan National Guard, fielded the dump trucks April 14, 2022, in Lansing, Mich., becoming one of the first Army units to receive the technologically advanced vehicle. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Legros).
Many people already know about the newest upgrade to the U.S. Army’s handgun, the M17 Sig Sauer. However, for the Michigan National Guard, it also means more technologically advanced engineering equipment.
“The M917A3 heavy dump truck is an important innovation that enables the Michigan National Guard and 1434th Engineer Company (1434th EN CO) to be at the forefront of future operations,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Adam Stojak, 1434th EN CO, 507th Engineer Battalion. “We always hear about the push for modernization in our military and this is a huge step in that direction.”
Along with Mississippi National Guard’s 289th Engineer Company, the 1434th EN CO is the first Guard unit across the country to field the dump truck and associated equipment. They will immediately bring drivers up-to-speed and familiarize the rest of the unit regarding its capabilities.
“I am excited to fill a unit shortage with the latest equipment available,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Inks, property book officer with the 177th Military Police Brigade, Michigan National Guard.
“These vehicles provide a critical capability for both domestic operations here in the state of Michigan, as well as operations in support of our nation’s defense. The addition of this new technology will keep our Soldiers ready to perform their duties,” Inks added.
The delivery of the new heavy dump truck results from a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense which sought bids for the vehicles, Mack Defense who constructed and tested the trucks, the U.S. Army Program Executive Office Combat Support & Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS) who further developed the technology and Amentum which fields and assists in maintaining the equipment.
The third iteration of the newer series of dump trucks was developed by the U.S. Army PEO CS&CSS, which is headquartered at the Detroit Arsenal in southeast Michigan. The new version includes several improvements which optimize the work engineers perform.
For instance, older models only had a 22-ton capacity; the new version carries 27 tons. More capacity means fewer loads and time saved during engineer projects.
“The upgrade in capability will speed up our process for things like paving airfields and building landing zones, but also increase readiness due to the technological improvements in monitoring vehicle maintenance status,” added Stojak.
The dump truck also includes advancements to ensure safe and proper handling of cargo. This includes features such as electronic mirrors, a backup camera and the ability to operate the truck bed from an outside position.
The truck also features a heated cargo bed which allows material such as asphalt to stay warm during transport. This is especially important for cold-weather states such as Michigan where, even on the day of fielding in mid-April, the temperature hovered just above freezing.
The U.S. Army PEO CS&CSS is responsible for the life cycle of approximately 20 percent of the Army’s total equipment programs. They consult with end-users, such as engineers, drivers and equipment operators on a regular basis to ensure product improvements reflect current and future needs.
“This program wouldn’t be successful without critical Soldier interaction,” said Alvin Bing III, product manager for heavy tactical vehicles at the U.S. Army PEO CS&CSS. “Soldier involvement occurs early and often throughout the development process.”
Bing oversees the development of several heavy tactical vehicles, including the heavy dump truck. He added that most of his teams include veterans or current reserve and Guard members. Bing is a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel himself, serving with the 217th Air Component Operations Squadron, 217th Air Operations Group, 110th Air Wing.
He emphasized that the vehicle end-user is one of the most important aspects in creating a product that meets military requirements.
“Engineering Soldiers provided feedback throughout the truck’s development,” said U.S. Army Maj. Stephanie Williams, Bing’s assistant product manager for the heavy dump truck, U.S. Army PEO CS&CSS.
The vehicle has been in development since 2018. Williams, a former National Guardsman, led the final push, overseeing the heavy dump truck project since 2020. She said the finished product could not have been completed without the countless hours and dedication of her team.
Her excitement is evident.
“It’s so great to see the National Guard field the heavy dump truck,” Williams said. “Usually, it’s the regular Army who receives this type of equipment first, so the Mississippi and Michigan National Guard understand how special this is.”
Don Garcia, an Amentum fielding representative, assisted in handing over the vehicle to the 1434th EN CO, and discussed many of the upgrades with the new engineering drivers. Inside the cab alone, there are USB ports, tilt steering, adjustable seats, heating and air conditioning, as well as a rearview camera with monitor to ensure safety.
“Features such as more comfortable seating and an improved ladder make life easier for Soldiers of different heights,” added Williams. “Those might seem like small additions, but it means a lot to Soldiers, especially during extended projects or long convoys.”
The 1434th EN CO drivers agreed.
“Truck operation is definitely safer, easier and more comfortable than before,” added U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Glumm, a horizontal construction engineer and 1434th EN CO driver of the new dump truck.
Glumm also spoke about the truck’s material control system (MCS), located in the bed and tailgate of the dump truck.
“The MCS is useful on a day like this, under rainy or muddy conditions, when heavy trucks create huge ruts on dirt roads,” he said. “With a flip of a switch, we can control how much material is dumped from the four gates in the back, then disperse it evenly to fill in those ruts.”
Glumm and U.S. Army Spc. Christina Gandy, also with the 1434th EN CO, attended a week-long training at Ft. Hood in preparation for fielding the truck. They will conduct a “train the trainer” class for additional drivers, initiating a licensing program within the unit. For ongoing local maintenance support, two Soldiers from Michigan’s Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES), also attended the Ft. Hood training.
The heavy dump truck is the latest advancement for the Michigan National Guard, which has positioned itself as a leader in innovative capabilities, a key objective for the state’s adjutant general, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers.
“Increasingly, Michigan is being recognized as a place for rapid innovation as we offer solutions for National Defense Strategy requirements,” Rogers said.
He added, “As an engineer myself, I see the new truck as a welcome addition towards the modernization of our fighting force.”
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