U.S. Marines with 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, participated in exercise Steel Knight 2017 at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., from Nov. 29 to Dec. 14, 2016.
1st Maintenance Bn. supported the 1st Marine Division by providing water, food, vehicle maintenance, transportation and 3-D printing capabilities.
"We have maintenance support teams that can be attached to a unit and can be sent out with our own vehicles across all the spectrum of maintenance: ordnance, engineers, reparable management and motor transport," said Capt. Adam Dierker, the assistant operations officer for 1st Maintenance Bn., 1st MLG. "We also provide all the chow and water for the entire exercise."
While some Marines were sent out to fix equipment, units also sent broken gear back to 1st Maintenance Bn.'s forward operating base. Maintenance Company identified and worked on 24 broken pieces of gear over the course of four days, utilizing the second iteration of the Expeditionary Manufacturing Facility.
"We provide the cutting edge of technology – right now," said Dierker from West Falmouth, Mass. "We have an Ex-Man, which is ‘additive manufacturing.' We can find a part or widget of a piece of gear on the front lines and can find out exactly how it's broken. We can take that back and make the measurements, analyze it, and see if we can 3-D print it. Then we can repair that part and actually bring it back out to the front lines instead of waiting on a supply system."
The second iteration of the Ex-Man is a testament to how far the 3-D printing field has come, according to Capt. Ross Hrynewych, company commander of Reparable Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Bn., 1st MLG. The first iteration of the Ex-Man only produced eight products in eight months.
The capabilities of 3-D printing is unknown to most Marines, so 1st Maintenance Bn. demonstrated them by making a variety of products including a Light Armored Vehicle's 25-millimeter M242 Bushmaster idler sprocket, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle's centrifuge impeller, and a Logistics Vehicle System Replacement mounting bracket.
"We came out to Steel Knight and we're trying to prove the concept of the expeditionary manufacturing shelter," said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Broom, a machinist with Reparable Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion. "When we came out here we started pursuing different units to let them know what we are working on. We started going around and seeing who might need some things. Things that we didn't have the ability to do before, but now we do have the ability."
Exercises like Steel Knight can provide Marines and units with a look at what a real warfighting scenario would feel like, and what would be expected of them.
"All of our [military occupational specialties] get critical training while they're out here, primarily just being in support of a real-life exercise," said Dierker. "They never cease to amaze all their supported units and their commanders. They work very hard and do a lot of jobs that not a lot of the [1st Marine Division] side knows about, but there are critical and key billets that support the Division and keep the force sustained in equipment readiness."