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Photo: Terry Herbig/file|
Aerial view of Rock Island Arsenal
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck|
Doug Klundt, program manager at the Rock Island Arsenal, shows how the new GPK, or gunner protection kit, looks on a Humvee. The Arsenal will begin production of 7,500 GPKs by July and 20,000 by next year.
Rock Island Arsenal's park-like setting is unlike other Army bases in the nation. Yet, its industrial complex and sandstone office buildings have been home to an Army presence adapting to the needs of soldiers for more than 100 years.
Before the government acquired the island from the Sauk and Mesquakie American Indians in 1804, the island was a garden of wild fruits and berries and a summer haven for the young Sauk, according to Sauk warrior Black Hawk in his memoirs.
"We did not, however, try to prevent their building the fort on the island, but we were very sorry, as this was the best island on the Mississippi," he wrote in 1834.
The Arsenal first rose to the challenges of a growing manufacturing center during the Spanish-American War of 1898, when it began making carriages, harnesses and personal equipment for the troops.
The Arsenal would respond to the nation's "war effort" for another 108 years.
The Arsenal was one of the main builders of the Model 1903 rifle and the only maker of artillery harnesses used by horse-drawn artillery batteries in World War I.
The Arsenal made machine guns, machine gun barrels, gun mounts, tanks and metallic belt links during World War II and super-repeating bazookas during the Korean War.
The military needed lightweight field-artillery during the Vietnam War and carriages, recoil mechanisms and gun mounts for towed and self-propelled howitzers after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The Arsenal also supplied truck-mounted mini-machine shops and tool kits for field repairs during Operation Desert Storm.
Current production includes prototype and production of the Forward Repair System, a maintenance shop for heavy vehicles near the battlefield; M2 machine gun parts; artillery components; development of the Petroleum Quality Analytical System; a prototype of the Dragon Fire mortar system, and other parts critical to the armed forces.
When not filling orders, the Arsenal makes security posts, bridge parts and other products for the island.
Throughout its history, the industrial complex has partnered with private defense contractors on weapons systems and components. But as the Army seeks to farm out more military production to private companies, more than 80 percent of the jobs are white-collar, logistics positions supporting soldiers around the world.
The terrorist attacks in 2001 accelerated the structural reorganization and transformation the Army already had begun. The Army restructuring, the war effort and the base-closing process in 2005 have had a profound effect on island operations.
More changes are on the horizon. Within the next year, 800 more military personnel and several more Army general officers will arrive as the result of the 1st U.S. Army headquarters transferring from Georgia.
About 1,100 civilian jobs may be lost over the next five years as various Army commands consolidate and restructure. The provisions of BRAC 2005 are to be fully implemented by 2011.
But the number of Arsenal and Arsenal-related jobs is expected to grow on the island and in the Quad-Cities community as a result of anticipated growth of the Army Sustainment Command, responsible for all troop supplies -- weapons, food, tanks, boots, uniforms and equipment maintenance.
The job growth would come from civilian personnel on the island and from large defense contractors relocating to the Quad-Cities to be near command headquarters.
During the last base-closing process, the Army slated RIA to close, but the Arsenal was taken off the list after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., stepped in. Although the Arsenal dodged the bullet, its position remains vulnerable.
The Army's position is that there is nothing unique about the Arsenal that can't be done elsewhere either by other government agencies or private contractors.
To strengthen the Arsenal's position against future closures, a group of retired Arsenal employees-turned consultants is garnering community support to strengthen the Arsenal's position.
They are focusing on making the Arsenal Manufacturing Center unique, restoring Quarters One for military housing, building new housing suitable for an expected influx of Army generals and building a multi-million dollar operations center that meets the stringent security requirements and communication features required of the 1st Army or other federal agencies.
Quarters One, the second largest government-owned private residence behind the White House, is expected to undergo extensive remodeling under a new managing operator this year.
Q-C area mayors have pledged community support for quality of life and other needs of the 1st Army and other new Arsenal tenants.
Arsenal Island History
1804 - U.S. Government acquired Arsenal Island in a treaty with the Sauk and Mesquakie American Indian tribes.
1809 - Congress designated Arsenal Island as a federal military reservation.
1816 - Army built Fort Armstrong, which served as military headquarters during the Black Hawk War of 1832. It was abandoned in 1836, but remained an ordnance depot until 1845.
1863 - The island was chosen as a site for a Confederate War prison for Confederate soldiers. Nearly 10,000 prisoners were held here and nearly 2,000 died and were buried in the Confederate Cemetery.
Each Memorial Day the 1,968 graves are decorated with Confederate flags. The shape of the markers are somewhat pointed. The story is that Confederate soldiers did not want any Yankees sitting on their graves.
National Cemetery was developed in 1863 as a simple burial ground for U.S. soldiers who died in service as guards of the Confederate prison. Today, the cemetery covers 66 acres with about 26,000 interments.
1898 - The Army ramped up Arsenal production of carriages and harnesses to support troops in the field during the Spanish-American War. Men and boys were added to work extra shifts. RIA also produced infantry equipment, field gun and siege gun carriages. As the demand grew, private contractors delivered finished ordnance products. Manpower expanded from a prewar 500 to peak employment of 2,900 in August 1898, but production potential was barely tapped.
The Arsenal also functioned as a depot for ammunition and small arms produced by the Rock Island Arsenal and held in reserve before delivery to the troops in the field. Electric service eventually was extended to the rest of the shops, major roads and bike paths were constructed and trolleys added.
1902 - The Arsenal produced more than 16,000 sets of cavalry equipment and 53,000 sets of infantry equipment, most of which were shipped to the Manila Ordnance Depot in the Philippines where U.S. troops were still fighting.
1904-1913 - The Model 1903 rifle, a .30-caliber, bolt-action rifle, first was manufactured. Production was re-established in September 1916.
World War I - About 114,000 Model 1903 rifles were produced in whole or as repair parts. Personal equipment such as mess kits and knives, canteen covers, haversacks and pack carriers were produced throughout the war.
All artillery harnesses supplied to U.S. troops were manufactured by the Arsenal until Aug. 1, 1918. Recoil cylinders and complete artillery carriages were manufactured for 3-inch and 5-inch guns, and the French 75 mm field gun was redeveloped with a hydropneumatic recuperator for U.S. use. WWI also was the only time the Arsenal was involved in producing ammunition. About 167,195 155mm howitzer shells were loaded.
Between the wars, the Arsenal focused on its dual missions of tank and artillery development. Artillery production was emphasized at the start of WWII. Production of artillery carriages reached 600 a month, and about 25,000 recoil mechanisms for various artillery were made.
World War II - Nearly 85,000 .30-caliber machine guns were produced, as well as about 193 million metallic, disintegrating belt links for the .30-caliber and .50-caliber machine guns. The Arsenal also had an exclusive research, development and production project to produce special containers to airdrop supplies and equipment to troops.
Korean War - Production of a 3.5-inch rocket launcher or "superbazooka" was the Arsenal's most significant contribution to the war effort. With help from its commercial manufacturing partner, the first shipment of superbazookas was transported by air from the Quad-Cities 13 days after U.S. troops were ordered into battle. A new method of centrifugal casting was developed, and 1,100 M25 repeating bazookas were made from 1952-1953.
Vietnam War - During the Vietnam War, the 102 105mm lightweight howitzer was developed and produced on Arsenal Island. An air mobile firing platform was designed and produced for the M102 howitzer. In 1962, the tool and equipment distribution mission was transferred from Rossford Army Depot.
The Arsenal was responsible for stocking and fielding 65,000 items, including hand tools, band saws and grinding machines. The modification of the M151A1 jeep was one of the more unique projects at the Arsenal. The jeeps were retrofitted with 106mm recoiless rifles, while other jeeps were modified into M718 ambulances.
1967 - The small arms mission was transferred from Springfield Armory, Mass. The Arsenal was in charge of product engineering, research and development and manufacturing.
1980s - Arsenal factories were converted into a modern, state-of-the-art manufacturing complex, housing the Department of Defense's only complete in-house forge, foundry and plating shop.
Gulf War - The Arsenal made nearly 18,000 component parts for artillery tanks, and tracked vehicles, such as a M198 towed howitzer, the M60A3 tank and M728 combat engineering vehicle.
The Arsenal designed two types of ammo spacers for its howitzers and made mini-machine shops outfitted with lathe, welder, power vise and basic set of tools for vehicle repairs in the field.
Peak Employment for Rock Island Arsenal only
Spanish-American War: 2,902
World War I: 13,400
World War II: 18,467
Current employment: about 1,300
Source: Rock Island Arsenal Past and Present