Monday, February 16, 2004

Fairfield company doubles armored Humvee production

Sixty employees to be added at O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt

The Associated Press

FAIRFIELD, Ohio - A company that's produced armored Humvee military vehicles for eleven years has doubled staff and production as the military expands its fleet, company officials said.

About 300 workers produce up to a dozen armored Humvees daily at O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt Armoring Co. plant in this southwest Ohio city.

There were 150 workers finishing five vehicles a day six months ago, when U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, toured the plant as part of a federal budget request for $25 million to expand the military's fleet of armored Humvees.

Sixty more employees will be in place by May, plant manager Jay Tepe said.

"We recognize the need. We're not going to let the soldiers down," he said. "We're going to continue to do everything we've been doing."

Expansion started even before contracts were in place at the subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Armor Holdings Inc.

"We took a leap of faith. We moved out before we had a contract," spokesman Michael Fox said.

Army Lt. Col. Kevin Peterson said the military needs 4,000 armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or Humvees, by November.

President Bush, in his 2005 budget proposal last week, called for $150 million for the company to armor 818 new vehicles.

The standard Humvee, with its lightweight construction, was designed to transport troops and cargo over rough terrain. It wasn't built to withstand street battles, ambushes and bomb attacks.

The 12,000-pound armored Humvee, costing about $150,000 each, starts with a frame shipped to O'Gara from AM General Co.'s assembly plant in Mishawaka, Ind.

Armored Humvees seat about three and are equipped with 7.62 mm armor-piercing protection, which means they can withstand assault rifles and land mines, said Ronald Carson, plant production and fabrication manager.

"I've seen the results," said Claude Bolton, assistant Army secretary for acquisition. "Our troops have been saved by this vehicle."

Bolton and acting U.S. Army Secretary Les Brownlee toured the plant Friday and praised the company's efforts.

"What you are doing here is vitally important," Brownlee told more than 100 workers. "You're doing it for these young soldiers out there, the young men and women who volunteered for their country."

Many plant workers either served in the military or are in Reserve or National Guard units.

Welder Rob Caudle, who served in the Navy, said the importance of his work has hit home. He has friends in Iraq, he said, and a co-worker was recently deployed to Afghanistan.

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