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Tyrone Korean War Vets tour Tobyhanna Army Depot

Touring Tobyhanna Army Depot The Tyrone Area Korean War Vets, spouses and invited guests recently toured Tobyhanna Army Depot in northeast Pennsylvania. The group spent a wonderful and informative day seeing and learning what the Tobyhanna facility does for the military. (Courtesy photo)

The Tyrone Area Korean War Vets recently had the opportunity to tour Tobyhanna Army Depot, which is located in the very northeast corner of Pennsylvania, near Stroudsburg. The group of 35 people, including 16 vets and their spouses, and a handful of invited guests, experienced first hand what the Tobyhanna facility is all about.
The Army\’s presence in Tobyhanna can be traced back to 1912 when Maj. Charles P. Summerall, commander of the 3rd Field Artillery, Fort Myer, Virginia, leased land for training his unit. The next year, he began the purchase of land that would eventually total more than 20,000 acres to provide a field artillery training site for Regular Army and National Guard units.
Today, Tobyhanna Army Depot, which employs around 5,000 people and has 500 million square feet of ground under roof, is involved with providing back-up and repair of all military equipment, for every branch of the military. The facility is geared up to repair anything the military has ranging from computers to night vision to instrumentation and weapons of all kinds. Whatever it is, they repair it and/or rebuild it.
With the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, Tobyhanna receives, every six months, the military\’s M-4 weapons, instrumentation, and everything else for cleaning and repair. Everything is completely disassembled and re-built like new, then tested, and sent back to Iraq within a two week turnaround.
Jack Sleeth, a Tyrone resident and vice-commander of the Tyrone Area Korean War Vets, was the one who planned and organized the trip. He said he had no idea where Tobyhanna Army Depot was or what they did there until 1997 when he purchased a favorite Army vehicle he drove in Korea and always raved about called a \”deuce and a half.\”
This grand vehicle is a two and a half ton, ten-wheel drive cargo and troop carrier, with versatility and durability, and in every way, made the Tobyhanna trip and tour possible. After being discharged in 1954, Sleeth always talked about the deuce and a half and eventually family members wanted him to put his money where his mouth was, and he did.
\”It was difficult to find one, but also available, like any military vehicle for collectors,\” said Sleeth. \”I found a guy in Millersburg, PA who had a license to go to Army auctions and we found one and bought it, and I brought it back home.\”
Sleeth has since used the “deuce and a half” for local parades and so forth, and he and the Korean War Vet guys pile in the massive vehicle and throw candy to the youngsters curbside at such events. But, this vehicle also tied him to Tobyhanna when in the same year of purchasing it, he joined the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA), and the MVPA held their annual convention that year on the grounds of Tobyhanna Army Depot.
\”We weren\’t allowed in the restricted areas or the buildings that were there that housed whatever they did when I was at the convention,\” noted Sleeth. \”I questioned people there about what goes on at this place, but nobody could answer my questions.\”
In February of this year, ten years later, Sleeth was watching PCN on television and they were showing factory tours, and low and behold, the tour for that episode was of Tobyhanna Army Depot, and it was hosted by their Deputy Commander Frank Zardecki. Sleeth said that tour was \”very\” interesting to watch and thought that the area Korean War Vets group would also find it intriguing.
Sleeth brought up the idea of taking the Tobyhanna tour to his Korean War Vet pals at their monthly meeting this past March, and it was agreed it would be a nice trip. So, he called up Deputy Commander Zardecki at Tobyhanna and he put him in touch with Public Affairs Officer Kevin Toolan, and they decided to set up a tour for September 12.
The Tyrone Korean War Vets try to take a trip somewhere every year, and they like to include their spouses, so Sleeth thought this tour was a great opportunity to do that. 35 people made the Tobyhanna trip and tour, which included 16 vets and their spouses, and a few invited guests. Sleeth put together an itinerary, rented a Fullington bus and the gang headed to Tobyhanna Wednesday of last week.
Sleeth said that Public Affairs Officer Toolan and the other tour guides were very informative and kind, and made the Tobyhanna tour memorable. The group was briefed when they got there by Toolan about the history of the facility and grounds before the tour began.
He also said that they had the opportunity to eat lunch at the Officer\’s Mess Hall, which he noted wasn\’t what you might visualize as a typical Army mess hall, but more like the \”Waldorf Astoria\” because of its out of this world appearance and grandeur.
On the tour, the Tyroners were broken down into two groups to make the tour even more personable, enjoyable and easier to listen and understand. It overall simply facilitated better communication for the group of older gentlemen and women.
\”Everybody was just so thrilled and delighted about how great the tour and trip was,\” said Sleeth. “It was an unbelievable day and interesting beyond belief, and I think everyone who went would totally agree.”
His love for the “deuce and a half” vehicle he drove all over Korea during the war made it all possib