MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Marine Corps Base Hawaii has the highest rate of equipment corrosion in the Marine Corps due to its Pacific location. It also has the leading Corrosion Prevention and Control Program Corps-wide and is developing efficient ways to combat deterioration.
Corrosion happens when salt from the atmosphere crystallizes and forms deposits. The salt crystals and moisture create electrical current between different or dissimilar metals, causing corrosion, said Matthew E. Sutton, senior engineer with Vision Point Systems Government Services, CPAC Center.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s island-peninsula location creates the perfect storm for corrosion, Sutton said. The seawater surrounding training areas and the base amplify the corrosion on military and personal equipment.
The CPAC Center aboard base has been developing and experimenting with methods to fight corrosion since the mid-1990s.
“In the 90s there wasn’t much of a program,” Sutton said.
“Equipment wasn’t engineered to protect from corrosion. They had an (military occupational specialty) that was responsible for paint and body. They would essentially pound the dents out and spray paint.”
Marine Corps Base Hawaii has made immense improvements with fighting corrosion. The Corps has gone from Marines busting rust from vehicles by hand to a system that slows corrosion, reduces work and gives Marines more time to focus on training for combat.
In the past, rusted and corroded equipment was shipped to the mainland for repair, which left the MCB Hawaii Marines without the equipment for around six months. Now, with an established CPAC Center aboard the installation, Marines have their gear within a 30-day turn around.
“The shipping costs were incredible, probably more than the actual vehicle was worth,” Sutton said.
The responsibility for corrosion prevention has moved to civilian contractors, who work with III Marine Expeditionary Force to restore equipment. The CPAC Program experiments with finding new solutions to prevent corrosion and applies the data in restoration projects.
Personnel at CPAC work closely with units aboard MCB Hawaii, training service members and communicating the importance of taking responsibility of equipment.
“You can’t prevent corrosion but you can slow it down,” said Bill Atwater, CPAC field service representative. “Ownership at the unit level is key. Take the steps that need to be done, that’s why (we’re) the model.”
The program is not only the model for others to follow in the Marine Corps, but has also caught the attention of others outside the Corps.
“We’ve had visits from other services to see how business is done here,” Atwater said.
Atwater and Sutton credit the success of the program to a well-structured system and good communication between the units and the contractors. Units now have access to information about their gear's condition online.
“Prevention is the key now,” Sutton said. “We’ve made leaps and strides. There is a lot of resources and energy applied in taking care of equipment.”
The program also allows more time for Marines to focus on their training with operable gear. Personnel at CPAC urge Marines and sailors to take gear corrosion seriously before the gear becomes too damaged to repair.
“Now it’s easier for Marines but it's ot completely solved,” Sutton added.
“This program is very important. Hawaii is the most corrosive geographically-located point in the Marine Corps. It’s (essential) that concern gets boiled down to the lowest level. This equipment is taken into combat. It’s an investment.”
Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series about corrosion prevention. Check out next week’s copy of the Hawaii Marine to learn more about the Corrosion Prevention and Control Program aboard the base and how to prevent corrosion to personal vehicles and equipment.