U.S. Army Lead Explains Nondestructive Testing, Corrosion Program

The Army’s Aviation and Missile Command Corrosion Team documents the effects of corrosion on the handling eye of a Patriot Missile cannister. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Tim Goddette, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for sustainment, recently visited the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) headquarters on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, USA, to discuss nondestructive testing (NDT) and corrosion program efforts.

Goddette serves as the lead for the Army’s corrosion protection program, in which he is responsible for defending budget dollars associated with corrosion. 

The visit’s purpose was to fully understand AMCOM’s process when it comes to training soldiers while identifying systemic issues that can lead to corrosion.

Special NDT Methods

Corrosion defects that are undetectable to the untrained eye are made visible by special NDT methods, which use technologies such as ultrasound.

“The NDT team and corrosion team usually travel together,” says Dave Ware, AMCOM’s G-3 Quality Support branch chief. “It’s a corrosion program. We don’t separate NDT from corrosion; it’s one program. Their whole focus is corrosion, and when they aren’t in the field doing corrosion training and surveys, they are prepping for the next trip.”

During the 2023 fiscal year, the team is scheduled to visit 10 global locations. They will spend approximately two weeks at each, allowing them to reach as many soldiers as possible.

“The team goes to each individual combat aviation brigade and also the missile community,” says James Snyder, AMCOM G-3M division chief. “They are technical experts who physically look at and document what they see on the platforms. That information is rolled up and fed back up to Goddette, so he can start to see what the trends are within each individual platform; sometimes it’s very specific to a region or a specific location. For instance, Japan is a highly corrosive environment.”

Unique Industrial Issues

While water and salt are the biggest threats for metal when it comes to corrosion, Jon Martin—AMCOM’s corrosion team lead—says industrial areas have their own issues. 

“You have to consider industry and smog,” he says. “Acid rain plays into it, so they may be landlocked, but when it rains, that acid rain gets on the equipment, so it’s not just a matter of salt or dust or dirt. If they aren’t washing their equipment, that plays a factor. Corrosion is a byproduct of mold and mildew.”

Goddette says he was primarily focused on the feedback loop. That means not simply identifying and correcting the problem at the unit level, but also reporting up the chain to ensure those same problems are addressed service-wide.

“As you find issues in the field … look at the approximate cause of the issue related to corrosion and breakdown it down into doctrine, training, leadership, material, etc.,” Goddette says. “That helps me consolidate the reports and then I can go back to the agency responsible for each one of those functional areas. As opposed to saying we have 29 corrosion issues and then it dies on the vine. What I’m trying to do is close the loop.”

Holistic Overview

A former soldier himself, Martin said he understands the hesitance his team receives when they enter a unit’s footprint. However, he said he immediately tries to get that guard down and assure the commander they are there to help, rather than document where they are failing.

“We are giving the command team a holistic look at what their components look like, what their equipment looks like, their aviation ground support equipment, all of their aircraft, their corrosion programs, etc.,” he says. “We need them to be as transparent as possible. So when I talk to the command team, I tell them we’re not here to poke you in the eye. We’re here to give you an outside look at your corrosion program so that it meets the Army standard. Not the AMCOM standard, but the Army standard.”

Ware notes that while the effects of corrosion are never good for any piece of Army equipment, they are urgent for aviation due to the uniqueness of airworthiness standards.

“If I’m driving down the road in a tank and my transmission goes out, I pull off, I disembark, the recovery vehicle comes and gets me, and takes me away,” he says. “If I’m traveling down the air space in a Chinook with a bunch of Rangers in the back and four crew members and the transmission goes out, it’s catastrophic, so we have to approach it a little bit differently.”

Goddette listened, asked questions, and requested follow-up information to ensure he fully understands the process. Without a detailed justification, programs could lose funding as the U.S. Department of Defense tries to balance competing priorities.

“When you go into resource review, you’ve only got a couple of minutes to make sure that people understand the little nuances,” he says. “I’ll continue to educate people and get them a little smarter on the importance of the corrosion program.”

Source: U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, www.dvidshub.net

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