The parking lot at the James W. Reese Center in Upland Borough has served as a storage post for a five-ton M900 series military truck for over a year, but how the vehicle arrived there remains a mystery to some Uplanders.
Sources close to borough government, who wished to remain anonymous, said they are still unsure how the truck arrived there, suspecting Joe Bail, who was Chester’s police commissioner at the time, left it there.
The same sources also said they “blocked-in the truck” with a civilian car as a precautionary measure to ensure the vehicle isn’t started-up and taken for a joy ride.
Current Chester Police Chief James Nolan, IV confirmed the truck was brought to that borough by Bail and that current leaders in the department are aware of the truck’s current whereabouts and still maintains ownership of it.
Agreeing with the sources at his former department, Bail said he organized transportation of the vehicle to Upland from Chester, but he didn’t drive it there.
“It was driven there by (a Chester police officer) who is (an Army) reservist and a trucker,” Bail said, adding that “very few people,” exclusively military veterans know how to drive it.
The now-retired police commissioner and Army veteran also belayed fears of a potential grand theft auto by saying, “The battery in that thing is dead” and “jumping the battery” or recharging it using a 12-volt civilian car battery is futile to the five-ton military truck’s 24-volt battery.
“The idea behind why we got them is from the emergency management side,” Bail said, when asked why Chester police owns combat military vehicles like the M900-series truck and the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), which is now owned by Trainer Borough Police.
During flooding, Bail explained, the large tires on both vehicles allow for the body, particularly the undercarriage, to sit high above the water preventing the exhaust from becoming waterlogged. Another unique feature of these vehicles is the position of the exhaust pipe.
“It’s called (a) fording (exhaust),” Bail said, adding that the exhaust runs vertically along the side of the vehicle, as opposed to underneath in many conventional vehicles.
Nolan agreed with Bail’s assessment of the M900-series truck, having driven them during his own Army career, but disagreed with repurposing combat vehicles for small municipal police departments because of the high cost to maintain it.
Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said he is also aware of the truck, but said, “If the city acquired it, we would just give it away, but if it was purchased, the city will look to sell it.”