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Birmingham, Ala. -- A volunteer project to paint seven historic United States Army armor and cavalry vehicles that brought volunteer contractors from Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Alabama and Minnesota, to Ft. Benning GA, is now complete. Painting crews from all over the U.S. came to work on the project for the National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation, which will move the tanks to Pattons' Park Oct. 8 and 9. Pattons' Park has a walking trail around the site of the future Armor and Cavalry Museum, scheduled to be dedicated November 11, and the tanks will display the history of armor vehicles from World War II to the present.

David Boyd, Chief Executive Officer of Vulcan Painters in Bessemer, AL organized the painting project, which generated donations of labor, paint, blast equipment, safety equipment, scaffolding, testing and the many items used by industrial painters. Vulcan Painters built containments, and contributed supervision, tools and equipment, and fuel so that as the contractors arrived at the Armor and Cavalry Museum Restoration Shop on base at Ft. Benning, the space at was set up and ready for their work.

The project involved about 50 contractors, suppliers and painters, and Boyd estimated the total cost at 5,000 to 0,000.

The coating work - done to the military's specifications for the tanks - benefits the Foundation, set to kick off fundraising this fall to build a suitable facility to house the U.S. Army's armor collection at Ft. Benning. The new museum site and Pattons' Park are adjacent to the Parade Field and the National Infantry Museum, and when it is complete, the complex will be the U.S. Army's largest museum.

The new museum will house the army's collection of tanks and other artifacts that have been moved to Ft. Benning, provide a space for education and research and house a repository for 200 years of archival records and documents.

The tank painting project was a collaborative effort, with Vulcan Painters supplying planning, supervision, tools, equipment, fuel and structures. Sherwin Williams provided paint and supplies, and U.S. Coatings also donated coatings. The Museum Restoration shop lent its Sullair 250 compressor and a forklift to the project, and helped with shipping containers and storage. Other companies and organizations contributed scaffolding, mesh, blast pots and blast media, safety glasses, blasting hoods, gloves, ear plugs, sand paper, scrapers, wire brushes and respirators (see below for a full list of contributors).

Len Dyer, director of the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, said that the tanks selected to be painted and placed as outside monuments at the museum location, were chosen so that both Cavalry vehicles and Armor tanks are represented in the different time periods that they were used. The vehicles painted for the project are:

The M26 Pershing tank, designed during World War II as a "heavy tank" of the United States Army. The heavy tank designation comes from the size of its gun, 90mm, and weight. To maintain the M26 Pershing tank, Vulcan Painters had to first remove lead-based paint from the tank inside the closed containment, before patching, priming and painting it.

Patton M48 tank. The M48 tanks were in service from 1953 to the 1990s and was the primary battle tank used during the Vietnam War by both the United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps. The M48 Patton tank in the collection had to be abrasive blasted in a closed containment by an Abhe & Svoboda crew from Minnesota. Inside the containment, readings for ambient conditions recorded temperature at 111 degrees. The temperature on the surface of the steel tank was 114 degrees. "It's an honor for us to show our appreciation for people who served for us," said Don Holle, vice president of Abhe & Svoboda, whose wife's father drove an M48 in Vietnam.

The M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. This vehicle was first used in the Vietnam War in 1964, and became the most widely used U.S. Army armored vehicle in that war. It has also been used by 50 countries worldwide, and has been adapted to a variety of scouting and transport missions. M113's can carry 11 infantrymen with two crew members. This vehicle was skillfully prepped and painted by Thomas Industrial Coatings from Pevely MO. "I'm a Navy vet and did a tour in Afghanistan, so this hits close to home for me," said Thomas Industrial Coatings project manager Josh Range. "That's why I'm here."

The M114 Command and Reconnaissance carrier. Scheduling changes put Vulcan Painters into the containment to water blast and paint this tank--a Vietnam War-era armored fighting vehicle.

The M60A3 tank, a model developed from the M48. The M60's were in U.S. service from 1961 to 1997, and remain in service in many countries today, including Egypt, Turkey and Israel. The M60A3 is the most modern tank in this project, and the largest at 56 tons. A crew from Main Industries in Hampton, VA worked in 95-degree temperatures in the Georgia sun to water blast clean, repair surfaces, prime and camouflage coat the tank, stopping to rig a partial cover for the containment area, to shield themselves from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Painters produced the camouflage pattern with a line guide to follow and landmarks on the tank as they taped off areas and added all the colors.

The M551 Sheridan, a light reconnaissance vehicle designed to be dropped by parachute and swim across rivers, saw service in Vietnam, Panama, and Kuwait. Miami FL contractor Champion Painting, a veteran-owned firm, sent a two-man crew to pressure wash the vehicle, and power and hand tool clean it. They applied filler to imperfections on the steel and followed with a coat of epoxy primer, green base coat and masking for camo pattern.

The M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle was designed to transport Cavalry scouts with armor protection while providing covering fire, and carried four scouts in addition to the regular crew of three. This type of vehicle has been in service from 1981 to the present. St. Louis-based Coatings Unlimited painted this tank, and project manager Shawn Eagan said his crew had "earned the right to do a special project like this" -they are some of the company's best. "It's quite an honor, and we're excited to be part of it."

"What you have done here is phenomenal," said Rick Young, executive director of the Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation. "You won't even realize the effect of this until later...I've really been impressed by the support and the attitude of the guys coming down here and working."

The new museum will house the collection of tanks the Army has assembled over decades, which had outgrown its previous home at the Patton Museum at Ft. Knox, KY. When the Army's armor school was moved to Ft. Benning to join the Maneuver Center for Excellence, the armor collection was moved as well, and now needs a permanent home. Lodged at the Museum Restoration Shop at Ft. Benning, the collection is not open to the public the first time since 1949.


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