Nearly three and half years ago, Master Sgt. Leon Lambert, a crewmember aboard a HERCULES M88A2 armored vehicle, helped topple the statue of Saddam Hussein, a scene witnessed by millions around the world thanks to heavy television coverage. At a BAE Systems plant in York, Pa., on Sept. 7, the master sergeant enjoyed the hospitality of the defense contractor at a ceremony returning the historic vehicle, HERCULES 0139, a refurbished Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift and Evacuation System, back to the Marine Corps.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Lambert told a huge crowd of employees at the ceremony. “Thanks for making a great vehicle.”
The M88A2 HERCULES, originally acquired by the Marine Corps Systems Command in 2001, is an armored, full tracked vehicle used for hoisting, winching and towing operations. Marines use the vehicle to recover tanks and other heavy equipment. BAE is currently refurbishing M88A2s along with M1A1 tanks and other armored vehicles
Lt. Col. John Swift, MARCORSYSCOM’s program manager for tanks, told the employees of BAE that they pass these vehicles back to the Marine Corps just as they would pass food on their table to their own families.
“The Marine Corps has a strong sense of family, and because of the work you do, you are all part of the Marine Corps family,” said Swift. “The M88A2 is a completely new vehicle with improvements in the suspension, the engine and the armor. It is the only vehicle that gives the Marine Expeditionary Forces the ability to recover tanks.”
The HERCULES showed that ability in the Mideast. Lambert’s company arrived in Iraq with 14 vehicles and left with 14.
“The only reason we came back with all our vehicles was due to the recovery capabilities of the HERCULES,” he said.
The master sergeant’s fondest HERCULES memory is the toppling of the Saddam Hussein’s statue.
They were tearing the statue down with their bare hands and they actually did it,” stated Lambert. “I was glad to be a part of what gave the Iraqis their first taste of freedom in a long time.”
At the end of the ceremony, BAE presented Lambert and Jason Rose, a former Navy Corpman and crewmember on 0139, with a painting depicting the HERCULES toppling the statue in Fardus Square in Iraq, signed by each employee working on the project.
In gratitude to BAE employees, Lambert and Rose signed the programs of almost a hundred employees and thanked each of them individually for the work that they do building and refurbishing vehicles for the Marine Corps.