Leveraging Modernization to Maximize Mission Set

Col. Gregory K. Gibbons
Letterkenny Army Depot

From Armor & Mobility, May 2021

Col. Gregory K. Gibbons serves as Commander, Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, PA. Gibbons’ initial assignment in 1997 was as platoon leader and later executive officer, A Company, 123rd Main Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division, Germany. From 1999 to 2000, he served as the executive officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Division Support Command, 1st Armored Division. In 2001, his next assignment was as support operations plans officer and later commander, A Company, 296 Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., and Iraq.

Upon returning to the U.S., he was assigned to I Corps as the supply and service material officer in the G-4. In 2005, Gibbons was assigned as Detachment executive officer, 2nd Joint Special Operations Air Component, Special Operations Command Pacific, Okinawa, Japan. From 2008 to 2009 he served as Plans Officer, 101st Sustainment Brigade 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in Afghanistan. His follow-on assignment was as the executive officer and support operations officer, Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Afghanistan. In 2012, Gibbons was assigned to the Pentagon as a plans officer in the Strategic Initiatives Group and assistant executive officer to the Assistant Chief of Staff Installation Management, Department of the Army.

Gibbons commanded Hawthorne Army Depot from 2014 to 2016. Following command, from 2016 to 2017, Gibbons was the assistant executive officer to the Commander, Army Materiel Command (AMC), Huntsville, AL. From 2017 to 2018, he attended the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA. From 2018 to 2019, Gibbons served as the Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, Combat Service Support and the G-4 for the NATO Rapid Deployment Corps – Turkey(NRDC-T), Istanbul, Turkey.

Armor & Mobility spoke recently with Col. Gregory Gibbons, Commander, Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD), regarding some of the depot’s top priorities for 2021 and beyond as the installation works to maintain peak operational effectiveness amidst an ongoing pandemic.

A&M: What is the mission of Letterkenny Army Depot and, specifically, your mission as LEAD Commander?

Col. Gibbons: Letterkenny Army Depot rebuilds, repairs, and modernizes Air and Missile Defense and Precision Fires systems to enable multi-domain operations for U.S. and Allied forces. When an AMD or PF system has reached its life cycle, we tear it completely apart, add all the updates and modernizations and rebuild it. When that system comes off of our assembly line we provide “better than new” systems back to the warfighter. When that Soldier, Marine or Airman receives a system from Letterkenny it can do things it never could when it first came off the assembly line 20 years ago.

As commander, I have multiple missions; to ensure the LEAD team has the tools they need to deliver exceptional systems to the warfighter today and posturing the depot to meet future requirements. For today’s mission, we want to deliver to our Performance to Promise metrics. We will deliver on time and at cost the best quality systems. For the future, it’s my mission to provide the strategic vision and path to ensure that Letterkenny has the facilities, equipment and capabilities to execute future systems maintenance.

A&M: With the past year presenting challenges for most agencies and businesses, how has LEAD done staying on mission?

Col. Gibbons: Even when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, we knew the warfighter would still require their systems. Letterkenny never stopped producing. What I’d like to focus on is how quickly the depot adapted to a new and ever-changing situation while maintaining mission readiness. As part of the Army’s Organic Industrial Base, we maximized telework where possible, but rebuilding systems and conducting maintenance cannot be done from home. For the majority of our workforce, about 95%, it was imperative that we create a safe work environment for our employees to report to each day.

We instituted mitigation efforts such as social distancing, use of masks and frequent sanitation to protect our employees. Although we were adapting and learning about COVID every day, I’m happy to report that impacts to LEAD were minor. Letterkenny was also instrumental in supporting the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic through repurposing our industrial capabilities and artisan skillsets to produce masks for our employees and other Department of Defense organizations. Additionally, Letterkenny provided community support by partnering with a local health care company to produce protective isolation gowns for their doctors and nurses. These additional efforts didn’t impact our core mission whatsoever and allowed us to maintain readiness and adapt to the constantly changing environment. Safety is one of our top priorities at Letterkenny. I’m proud of our team for all the work done to protect each other and aid our community during this ongoing crisis.

A&M: From a programs perspective, speak to the state of some efforts such as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) Recap, Avenger, and Patriot.

Col. Gibbons: Letterkenny Army Depot works on over 150 different major end item programs and over a thousand secondary programs in support of the Department of Defense. As the Air and Missile Defense and Precision Fires depot, we reset, overhaul or recapitalize the PATRIOT system, PATRIOT missiles, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, Avenger etc., and all of the support equipment related to those systems. In addition, LEAD is the Depot Source of Repair for Power Generation, Materiel Handling Equipment All-Terrain Lifter Army System forklifts, Mobile Kitchen Trailers, Mobile Integrated Remains Collection Systems, Route Clearance Vehicles and the prime movers for all. LEAD’s capabilities range from rebuilding a generator, axle or launcher to circuit cards and sensors. Our artisans are some of the most highly skilled welders, mechanics, electricians, and machinists working within the DOD. While LEAD’s programs are diverse, our Quality Assurance teams ensure every system is ready for the warfighter.

Letterkenny resets the most deployed units in the Army, which are currently the Air Defenders. LEAD works on every system in the battalion as a system of systems. From the PATRIOT radar, Battery Command Post, prime movers to the PATRIOT launcher, LEAD artisans expertly execute the reset of all of these assets. Normally, the depot resets one battalion a year. Today, LEAD is in different stages of reset on four separate battalions. Our promise is to have the entire battalion modernized and reset in 240 days to guarantee the unit has time to train and redeploy on time.

Our engineers and artisans are working diligently to stand up a waterfall process to reduce repair cycle times with our PATRIOT reset program. The waterfall process will essentially switch out one ADA battalion’s equipment for equipment that has already been reset or recapitalized. We estimate that this method will reduce repair times for select components by up to six months and provide the units with serviceable equipment immediately upon their redeployment. This will allow warfighters to have more time to train on their equipment at their home station and prepare for their next mission.

In addition to the reset and recapitalization of PATRIOT, Letterkenny also executes the PATRIOT new build program, which complements our workflow. As a part of the Public Private Partnership program, LEAD builds brand new PATRIOT launchers and missiles. This supports our allies and partners and provides facility and equipment upgrades across the depot.

LEAD’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System overhaul program supports the Army, Army National Guard and Marines. The Letterkenny HIMARS team is often recognized for using their expertise to provide solutions to systemic maintenance issues with the HIMARS system.

I wish I had time to tell you about all programs in Letterkenny’s portfolio, that includes Force Provider, Power Generation, Hellfire launchers, and Close Combat Missile Systems, but I think we’d quickly run out of pages. We have a knack for the low density systems, and we’re moving toward more of those programs such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense recapitalization in support of the Missile Defense Agency. Moving into the future, we’re posturing the depot to execute work on future air and missile defense and long range precision fire systems that include the Extended Range Canon Artillery system, hypersonic launchers and directed energy.

A&M: As Army Futures Command pushes force modernization forward, talk about some key LEAD modernizing efforts.

Col. Gibbons: What Army Futures Command is doing to develop the Army’s future systems and Army Materiel Command’s Organic Industrial Base modernization plan is very exciting. Letterkenny is laser focused on modernization and preparing the depot to meet requirements for the systems being developed and acquired by AFC. LEAD is diligently planning for the AFC, Cross Functional Team’s 31 +4 projects. CFT Air and Missile Defense, CFT Precision Fires and the +4 are more than 30% of AFC’s future projects and fall into Letterkenny’s mission and portfolio. We will ensure that LEAD has the capabilities and capacity to meet the future depot maintenance requirements of the DOD.

Our workforce is the keystone of Letterkenny and our prominent factor in modernizing the depot. As we work to modernize our facilities, programs and processes, we place priority in preparing our workforce for the next era of weapon systems. Through training, professional development, developing partnerships and building a culture of innovative thinking, our people will be the driving force in all of our modernization efforts.
While Letterkenny will perform the depot maintenance for these systems in the future, it is imperative that we support AFC’s speed of acquisition and fielding in the present. Rather than slowing down the rapid acquisition cycle so that sustainment can keep up, Letterkenny is expanding and developing processes to speed up our support to be relevant to AFC and the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office in the first years of development and testing.

One area critical to this modernization is improving and focusing engineer and artisan involvement with Manufacturing Readiness Levels and assisting the developers by partnering to enhance producibility and sustainability early in development. We have substantial experience with this in our new build programs for PATRIOT launchers and missiles. LEAD artisans and engineers have even developed new-build trailers that would reduce the costs associated with heavily corroded and degraded trailers seen more frequently these days.

Much of this experience is an extension of the recapitalization process, but we also gained expertise while partnering with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center on the Indirect Fire Protection Capability – Multi-mission Launcher. Although that system was not chosen, the LEAD team gained extensive knowledge and capabilities for development phase partnering that leads to a more sustainable system and a smoother transition to sustainment.

We are now using those capabilities on the Extended Range Canon Artillery program with Program Manager Self-propelled Howitzer Systems in Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems and partnering with the DEVCOM Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. Our engineers and artisans are also partnering with the Metrology Lab at DEVCOM AvMC to integrate blue light optical scanning as a means of measuring surface geometry of ERCA turrets to set a baseline and monitor surface changes as the turrets undergo cutting, machining and welding. This allows our team to provide better estimates on the amount of work necessary to complete the project, better predict project timelines and ensure a high quality product.

Letterkenny is working side by side with PEO Missiles & Space to look at the Cross Functional Teams and subsequent projects to see how Letterkenny fits into these efforts. With our expertise, LEAD will provide tremendous value to these programs. Letterkenny leadership has established a strategic modernization plan that examines six key areas of our business and how we can leverage those areas to modernize and improve conditions, efficiencies and effectiveness across the depot.