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High-Tech Gear Makes Life on War's Front Lines Easier - 2003-04-30

Playing cards, board games, air-conditioned tents and hot shower systems are among the items that workers at SFA Inc. are manufacturing and packing for the U.S troops in Iraq. Such products can bring some comfort to the men and women on the front line. In Frederick, Maryland, 150 workers at SFA, or Sacks, Freeman and Associates, are working overtime to meet the shipment deadline. "We work like 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and we are too much busy," said one of the workers.

Munir Caliskam, a Turkish immigrant, has been an assembly worker at SFA for more than four years. Recently, he has been assigned additional operations on the factory floor to help accelerate the production process.

SFA vice president Richard Mattingley says the firm is entirely geared to the defense industry. "Normally when people think of the defense industry, they think of things like B2 bombers, tanks and weaponry," he said. "We are not in that end of the business. The business that we are in is support equipment for military troops."

All the support equipment that SFA manufactures is designed to be contained in a shelter, and can be moved from one spot to another. "That equipment can be anywhere from containerized latrines, showers, laundries, water purification equipment," Mr. Mattingley said. "One of the piece equipment that we manufacture is called TWIPS, Tactical Water Purification System. It can purify water from any source. The water can be contaminated with nuclear, chemical, or biological agents and it will be purified into drinkable water up to 1500 gallons per each hour."

These items and more are part of a ready-made camp known as a 'Force Provider Module' and each one takes six months to manufacture. Workers at the SFA Frederick Division are almost done with four such modules. Mr. Mattingley says each of them is valued at $6 million. "A module is a camp that contains everything that the troops need to support their lives, up to 550 troops live in these camps," he said. "These camps have air-conditioned latrines, showers, tents and power distribution system. Each one of the Force Provider Modules has a large screen TV and a satellite dish in it. It has board games, baseball bats, baseball gloves, footballs, any type of recreational equipment that will support the troops when they come back from the front lines."

Up to 72 soldiers can use each air-conditioned shower system per hour. Engineer Jim Frigner says it was designed by the SFA Engineering Department. "Usually what we get is a concept, and it will be up to the Engineering Department to develop this concept in workable drawings and into a workable product," he said. "So, basically, what I do is a computer design. Everything that we do here is designed on the computer before it gets manufactured to make sure that everything fits together."

SFA vice president Mattingley says he and his colleagues are proud to be part of the effort helping the U.S. troops in Iraq. "We have 150 people working here and they are all working with one purpose and that is to make sure that our guys overseas have some standard of normal living when they come back to the base camps," he said.

Pat Osutch, a clerk at SFA, feels especially honored to be part of this group, because her brother is among the U.S. troops in Iraq. "I want to tell my brother Major Kurt Osutch; 'Hello, we all love you, we all are proud of you and want you to return home safely. And God bless everyone there,'" he said.

Richard Mattingley of Sacks, Freeman and Associates in Frederick, Maryland says his colleagues are working night and day to make sure that the U.S troops don't have any problem with the company's support equipment, whether it's a deck of cards or a hot shower.