Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. Wesley Todd is amazed—and thrilled—to be an inventor.

While working on a light-towed howitzer cannon, Todd invented a device that improves soldier safety and equipment longevity to the extent that it is projected to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps more. The invention—which facilitates the removal of seized muzzle breaks from cannons, thereby eliminating the need for excessive force that can damage equipment—has been approved and is being tested before its possible implementation throughout the U.S. Army.

“I am shocked that the Army is going to adopt something I designed myself,” said Todd, a noncommissioned officer from La Porte, Indiana, with the 333rd Military Police Company in Freeport, Illinois. He is a military technician with the Combined Support Maintenance Shop (CSMS) at North Riverside Armory in North Riverside, Illinois. “It’s an honor to know I improved the Army in a small way.”

No small feat

Maj. Gen. and Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard Richard J. Hayes said Todd’s invention will affect the Army in more than a small way.

“This soldier’s invention will increase safety and save the entire Army hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment parts and repair time,” Hayes said. “These are resources that will now be able to be devoted to other U.S. Army priorities.”

“Sgt. Todd and his leadership have set a great example. Sgt. Todd has shown how a single Illinois Army National Guard soldier can improve a process for the entire Army, and his leadership has shown us a great example of how to listen to your soldiers’ ideas and help them implement positive changes. I’m proud to have these soldiers under my command.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steve Murphy, armament supervisor at the North Riverside CSMS, said Todd took it upon himself to design and fabricate the device when he saw soldiers struggling to remove a seized-up muzzle break on a light-towed howitzer. Todd used a computer numerical controlled lathe to make the piece that is 6 inches in diameter, 7 inches in length and weighs about 30 lbs. It bolts onto the end of the muzzle break, sliding into a notch on the muzzle, and then soldiers use a breaker bar by placing it in the hold and applying pressure to loosen the muzzle break.

This eliminates the need to use the kind of force that could damage the howitzer tube or its rifling grooves when removing seized muzzle breaks. Just the tube of the light-towed howitzer can cost more than $265,000.

“It can be very difficult to remove the muzzle break,” Murphy said. “They sometimes seize up in varying weather conditions.”

No more sledgehammers

Murphy said soldiers normally had to take a sledgehammer to the muzzle break to remove it, which frequently damaged the break and could damage the artillery tube. “Using the device instead of a sledgehammer will keep our soldiers safer while working on the equipment,” he said. “The device will make the process much faster.”

Sgt. 1st Class Edgar Gomez of Oak Lawn, Illinois with Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Champaign, Illinois, and an artillery repairman as a military technician in the armament section at the CSMS in North Riverside, said: “This is a very helpful tool, and I believe it will be very helpful throughout the Army as well. It’s awesome that this came from our state, and he is an awesome machinist.”

Todd said it was just in another day’s work: “Making things is a part of my job. This is by far the most impactful thing I have ever made, though.”

Todd has worked as a machinist at the CSMS for three years. He said he normally repairs damaged parts and makes new parts for military vehicles and equipment. “This was the first part that I designed myself and then fabricated. Normally, I fabricate parts from manuals in the shop.”

Murphy said: “I have no doubt this device will go on to make a huge impact to the efficiency of removing the muzzle break Army-wide. He is an unbelievable machinist, and I am very proud of him for stepping up when there was a need.”

Staff Sgt. Robert R. Adams is with the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office.