Cpl. Devin Perrell, a repair shop machinist and native of Bear Creek, N.C., removes a bolt stuck in a Humvee's pitman arm by drilling a hole through it and using an extractor to pull it out, Nov. 21, 2017, at Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Japan. The pitman arm is the piece of a vehicle that holds the wheel hub to the vehicle itself. The vehicle hardware was given to General Support Maintenance Company (GSM), 3rd Maintenance Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group for repairs. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabella Ortega)
CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan – Marines with General Support Maintenance Company (GSM), 3rd Maintenance Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, provide machining, manufacturing and welding support to units on Hawaii, Okinawa and mainland Japan to keep them combat ready.
“What we do is important to the MLG because we provide support they can’t get anywhere else,” said Gunnery Sgt. Justin A. Horn, the GSM metal shop chief, regarding the capabilities offered to units. “With machining and manufacturing capabilities, we’re able to reproduce a lot of parts they buy through the supply system.”
From a water jet to a 3-D printer, the GSM shop uses a variety of machines to fabricate parts and tools for temporary or permanent repairs for anything 3rd Maint. Bn. needs. One machine in particular, the Dreamer Flashforge 3-D printer, GSM Marines use regularly for quality control of their products before it is made out of metal. Horn, a Greene, N.Y. native, said the 3-D printer tests the fit, form and functionality of the object as many times as necessary before being produced so that metal is not wasted. One kilogram of the material in the 3-D printer costs roughly $35, the same amount of metal costs 10 times that amount.
“Paper costs cents, metal costs dollars,” Horn said, also adding how the 3-D printer saves a lot more man hours by being able to hit print and walk away.
Repair shop machinists also use the computer-aided drawing program, Mastercam, to produce metal work. This program sends a code to different machines, one of which is the TM1 CNC Mill, which then reads the code and cuts the image out of a piece of metal. Mastercam allows the Marines to electronically draft and manufacture machine parts that are accurately measured and scaled to the millimeter.
“My favorite part [of this job] is always having new challenges, different parts that are complex and hard to design, anything with organic geometry and things that we don’t have actual measurements for,” said Horn. “When someone brings in some stuff scrawled on a napkin or a part broken in half, that’s the fun part, trying to reverse engineer a piece.”
GSM makes many different parts for military vehicles and weapon systems in 3rd Maint. Bn., such as bolts, brackets and hinges. What many people may not know about the shop is with GSM Marines repairing or reverse engineering parts, 3rd Maint. Bn. is able to replace their parts quicker and cheaper than they would through standard purchasing methods.
For Lance Cpl. Connor Bastarache, a repair shop machinist and Penacook, N.H. native, being able to take a hunk of metal and make any part from scratch is his favorite part of his military occupational specialty.
“I feel like more people should know about machinists, welders and the metal shop in general because we’re extremely important,” said Bastarache. “Anything [someone] could possibly need that is made out of metal or needs to be fixed we can do for them in probably a quicker time than ordering the part themselves.”