ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- An era rumbled to an end at the Museum of Aviation on Tuesday.
The last M35 cargo truck at Robins made a final trip from the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron to its new home in Hangar One at the museum.
The M35 is a military icon that for decades has hauled troops and supplies in combat zones around the world. Because it could carry 2.5 tons, it was commonly called “Deuce and a Half.”
The one delivered to the museum arrived at Robins brand new in 1988 and has been operated by the 5th Combat Communications Group, commonly known as the 5th Mob, the entire time.
The truck is famed for its ruggedness, simplicity, ease of repair and ability to run on most any fuel. In a pinch, it can even run on used motor oil.
Mike Rowland, curator of the museum, said the truck is beloved by military members, even if modern trucks have greater capabilities on paper.
“When you are out in the field and your fancy new vehicle breaks down, but you can go fix this with a pocket knife and a toothpick and some bubble gum, well that says a lot,” Rowland said. “This is the truck that’s going to get you out of trouble.”
While the museum’s truck never deployed overseas, it probably served some important missions. That includes delivering supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims and responding to the Mother’s Day tornados in Macon. The 5th Combat Communications Group deployed in full force to both of those disasters, so the truck most likely was used in both places.
While the museum truck was an Air Force vehicle, Rowland said it will be appreciated by Army veterans as well because it is the same M35 the Army used.
Phoenix Management, a contractor for the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron, restored the truck. The 5th Mob had planned to turn it over for a surplus auction, but the museum found out about it and asked if it could have it.
Henry Kirkpatrick, a body mechanic with Phoenix, and two other people did the work on the truck. Most of the work involved rounding up some missing parts and painting the truck, he said. He drove it to the museum Tuesday, making a stop at 5th Mob headquarters where a few airmen there came out to bid it farewell.
A tow truck followed in case the M35 didn’t make it. As he shifted through the gears, Kirkpatrick described what it’s like to drive the behemoth.
“Not fun,” he said. “I can’t imagine driving this thing six hours across country.”
But if the military had consulted Master Sgt. Casey Hylton, a 5th Mob mechanic who worked many times on the museum’s truck, the M35 would never have been replaced. He said its capacity to run on most any fuel can be critical in a combat area where multiple nations with different types of fuel are operating.
“I think it’s a mistake for the military in getting rid of it because of its simplicity,” he said as he saw it on its last journey. “To fix and repair this vehicle in the field, it is very, very quick.”
The 5th Mob is one of the longest serving units at Robins, but it doesn’t fly planes. The truck gives it some notable representation at the museum, Hylton said.
“It shows what we are capable of doing and what we have been doing,” he said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.