LIMESTONE, Maine – In a new round of military base closings planned by the Pentagon, jobs will be lost and local economies will suffer. But one former base in Maine is coming back to life, thanks to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The former Loring Air Force Base (search) in Limestone is now the Maine Military Authority (search), a sprawling facility in which hundreds of Humvees are being rebuilt for the U.S. Army and National Guard 20 hours a day.
The nearly 500 employees — up from nine on re-opening day — strip the vehicles down to the frame, upgrade suspensions and transmissions, and install new or rebuilt engines as well as bulletproof glass and tires.
While the Humvees (search) aren't reinforced with armor there — that happens overseas — every bolt and bracket is replaced, along with seat belts, seat cushions, decals and data plates.
The workers say the ongoing war in Iraq and operations in Afghanistan give them an extra sense of purpose.
"It brings back a lot of memories, and makes me feel like I'm helping the troops out there stay safe," Gulf War veteran Tim Belanger said.
Technician Bobby Mitchell agreed that the men and women serving abroad were on his mind while he was on the job.
"That's what keeps my quality up, what's going on right now," he said.
Humvees, the workhorses of the armed forces, take a beating, and not just from roadside bombs and mortars. Desert sand and heat also take a toll. Vehicles that are dropped from planes are sometimes damaged when chutes malfunction. Collisions with camels have even damaged some Humvees.
Brand-new Humvees run around $140,000 a pop, but the MMA says its good-as-new refurbished vehicles go for only about $24,000 each.
As long as Humvees are the Army's vehicle of choice, the MMA is only likely to grow.
"I think that's why they take such pride in the quality they're putting out here. They really see the benefit of serving someone, fighting for a purpose that's helping the United States," said MMA official Gary Cleaves.
Click in the video box at the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Rick Leventhal.