by Corey Russell
Imagine driving down the road and getting a flat. You get out of the vehicle, set the jack up to change the tire, and then whammo, the jack is crushed and much time is lost waiting for a lift truck to come so you can change the tire.
Now imagine the wait while surrounded by enemy fighters trying to kill you.
That's the situation U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan recently faced until Sunnyside native Richard Bogert came into the picture.
The fairly new armored HMMWV, the military version of the Hummer, weighs approximately 17,200 pounds with a full combat payload. Unfortunately, the manufacturers tire jack that comes with the vehicle collapses under the added weight.
To fix this problem, the U.S. Army contracted with an engineering company called Exponent, Inc. to come up with a simple tire jack that could lift the Hummers without breaking. They could not.
It seems no one else could, as well.
That's when a representative from the company contacted Bogert, who owns Bogert Aviation and is the head engineer at Bogert International, Inc. They explained to him their problem and asked if he had anything they could use.
Bogert told them he didn't but he was sure interested in trying to solve the problem. That's when the Exponent, Inc. representative told him not to bother, that if he didn't have anything that could do the job there wasn't time to create a jack because it needed to be at the Yuma Proving Grounds in seven days.
This was in July 2006.
Bogert wasn't discouraged and set to work on the project. At the end of the fifth day he and his crew still hadn't produced a working device.
"The Problem with the Humvee is it wants to move when you pick it up," Bogert explained. "It ends up bending the jack."
After sending his crew home for the evening Bogert began to tinker around and ended up working the whole night trying out ideas, always focusing on solving the problem of the moving Humvee. By the time his crew came in the next morning, Bogert had a working jack.
He was able to test the jack on an unarmored HMMWV that just happened to be in Kennewick at the U.S. Army recruiter's office for the boat races. It met expectations so he rushed back to his shop at the Pasco Airport, boxed it up and shipped his new invention to Arizona overnight.
"The jack is very different in that there is no bending load," he explained. "Almost all the loads are compression or tension."
When an engineer who worked for Exponent, Inc. in Phoenix saw the contraption, he dubbed it the "Grass Hopper Jack".
The jack built by Bogert shifts so it can adjust to a moving load and is truly one of a kind.
"We can put a vehicle on a 10 percent slope and jack it up," Bogert said. "Then you can shake the vehicle and the jack doesn't care."
To say the least, Bogert's invention was a hit in Yuma. Of the 18 other competitors submitting designs, Bogert's was the only one that didn't fail.
The jack, which weighs about 50 pounds and costs $1,600, can be set up to lift an armored Hummer in three minutes. A welcome relief for U.S. troops caught with a flat tire in hostile territory. It fits neatly inside the vehicle.
Bogert International, Inc. was awarded a blanket purchase agreement by the General Services Administration to supply the jacks to the U.S. Army. So far the company has shipped nearly 1,200 jacks to the U.S. Army through NSA in 2008 and Bogert said he expects that number to climb to 3,500 before the end of the year.
If all goes well by the end of the Pasco company's five-year agreement, he will have supplied 108,000 jacks to America's fighting men.
"We had gone through at least 20 different designs and none of them would work," Bogert recalled. "That work brought us down a trail and we eventually got to where we were going."
Efforts are being made now to create a jack that can lift up to 20,000 pounds. This would make the jack suitable for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected and Joint Light Tactical vehicles.