Our Humvee would only fit through the entrance if a Tomahawk missile blasted a larger opening – a solution I didn't think show management would approve.
If you've ever exhibited in Southeast Asia, you know that show information isn't always complete or exact, so you learn to ask a lot of questions. Alas, one missed question left me trying to squeeze a watermelon through a keyhole – or so it seemed.
At the time, I was working for AM General LLC, a vehicle manufacturer best known for producing military Humvees, and getting ready for a military trade show in Malaysia. The venue was a repurposed five-story mall, and I felt like I'd done my homework and asked enough questions to ensure a smooth and seamless setup. A phone call from our freight handler, TWI Group Inc., proved otherwise.
TWI had delivered our mighty machine to the front lines in pristine condition, but the crew member who attempted to drive the vehicle into the venue hit a small mine, figuratively speaking. The entrance we had to use comprised a roughly 8-by-8-foot opening. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem, since Humvees are only about 7 feet wide and 6 feet tall. However, the vehicle we were exhibiting had been outfitted with tactical side mirrors and a machine-gun turret that added several feet all around. In other words, our Humvee would only fit through the entrance if a Tomahawk missile blasted a larger opening – a solution I didn't think show management would approve.
I told the TWI crew to sit tight and immediately speed dialed one of our field service reps (FSRs), who are basically our mechanics. After I explained the situation, the FSR said he should be able to coach our team on the ground through a partial dismantle that might slip our machine through the door.
Faster than an army of Germans can roll through Paris, I called the freight handler and asked him if he had access to tools and a forklift. He did, so I patched him through to the FSR. First, the FSR coached the crew through removing the vehicle's massive mirrors. Then, over the next couple of hours, the team detached the top section of the turret and used a forklift to lift it from the body without leaving a scratch.
Unfortunately, the remaining portion was still too tall to fit through the entrance without causing collateral damage. The FSR explained that we could lose a few more inches if the team deflated the Humvee's run-flat tires – a necessity for traversing hostile environments – and then pumped them back up using the vehicle's on-board compressor. Ultimately, we ended up with about half an inch to spare when the Humvee rolled inside. Once it was in the booth, all the team had to do was reattach the mirrors and turret and reinflate the tires.
Thankfully, the show didn't lob any more grenades our way, although the crew did have to repeat the process to get the Humvee back outside. In the end, I realized things could have gone much worse. After all, I could have worked for Abrams, which meant we would have had to fit a tank through that door. Now that would have been a challenge.
— Jamie Talboom, manager of trade shows and marketing, Allegheny Technologies Inc., South Bend, IN