LIMESTONE, Maine — A group of Maine Military Authority workers who normally repair and rebuild military vehicles for the National Guard volunteered some of their time over the past three months to upgrade and refurbish a used Humvee and trailer at a reduced cost for search and rescue operations in Maine.
Employees at the Maine Military Authority performed the work for Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, Robert L. Jandreau, director of operations and general manager at MMA, said Tuesday. He said that a “handful” of employees did quite a bit of the work on their own time.
DEEMI is an Orono-based nonprofit organization with more than 120 volunteers who assist in search-and-rescue operations as well as medical evacuations and disaster responses in Maine and the New England region. The group was instrumental in the recovery of Alexandria Winship-Wright, 3, of Fort Fairfield, whose body was found in June 2007 at Tinker Dam in New Brunswick, eight weeks after she walked away from her mother’s home and drowned in the Aroostook River. The body was found using high-resolution aerial photographs taken by DEEMI.
Richard Bowie, director of DEEMI, said this week that the organization brought both vehicles up to the Limestone MMA facility about three months ago. He said the Humvee had been in operation for five years, and they paid a refurbishment fee of $1,200 for MMA to do the work on the vehicle. The trailer more recently was acquired from the military.
“At the same time, they saw this trailer that we had with us, and they said to leave both of them there with them,” Bowie said. When the DEEMI crew returned to get the vehicles at the start of 2016, he said, he was “blown away.”
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. “Not only did they do the lift spring upgrades and [refurbish] the Humvee, the trailer looked like it was brand new. They even painted it to match the color of the Humvee.”
The director speculated that if he had to get an outside firm to do the work to the trailer that MMA did, plus all of their little inventions, it would have cost DEEMI “three or four times what we paid them.”
Bowie said that the purpose of the trailer is to carry all of the heavy, extra gear that the volunteer searchers who work with DEEMI might need, but not necessarily all of the time.
“For instance, camping gear,” he said. “We may need it on some searches, but not all the time. Plus, we can put backpacks in this to lighten the men’s load. The not-so-important stuff can go in the trailer. It doesn’t have to clutter up the interior of the Humvee. Logistically, this is so helpful to us.”
He praised the MMA employees for the quality of their work.
“These are smart guys, very utilitarian. They are thinking all the time,” he said. “For a long time, we could never find a good place to put a spare tire on the Humvee where it wouldn’t get in the way or be too unsafe. But they mounted a swing-away tire that they invented on their own, and it is very ergonomical, safe and intelligent. I can’t say enough about these guys.”
Jandreau said that the MMA employees believe DEEMI volunteers “do not get enough credit for their work,” and they are thankful for the search and rescue efforts the organization has put forth in Aroostook County.
“We are hopeful that they can use this equipment to save some lives,” he said Tuesday.