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TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Russ Monk, CEO of Tigards High Impact Technology, has been developing innovative solutions to save solders lives for years. Last week, HIT was awarded a presidential award for their workRuss Monk admits he’s overprotective.


In fact, it’s his company’s motto.

For the past 15 years, Monk has made the long drive from his home in Salem to his office at High Impact Technology, a Tigard company that works to save lives.

HIT, as Monk calls it, doesn’t have a flashy façade. Tucked away in the back of a nondescript industrial park in the heart of Tigard, it’s easy to miss the company’s small, faded sign on a loading dock welcoming visitors. But HIT has spent the last decade re-thinking the way that the U.S. military protects its soldiers.

“Do I love what I do? Well, yes,” Monk said, sitting at a conference table at HIT’s world headquarters off Southwest Tigard Street. Several plaques recognizing the company’s two dozen patents, nearly all awarded to Monk and engineer Tom Ohnstad, line the wall behind him.

“We have four more patents that we haven’t put up yet,” he said, clearly proud. “There’s about 20 that are still pending.”

HIT was founded in 2004, after the U.S. military found itself with a major problem on its hands.

In the past, supply vehicles, such as fuel tankers, were seldom seen on the front lines, but that changed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But in insurgent warfare, everything is the front line,” Monk said. “No one considered every street was a front line.”

Insurgents began targeting fuel trucks in an attempt to stop American soldiers, Monk said.

“They were these 32-foot-long billboards riding by,” he said. “Insurgents aren’t dumb. If you take out the fuel, you shut the war effort off.”

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - High Impact Technoloy CEO Russ Monk shows off several bullet holes in a metal sheet. A thick protective coating on the other side of the metal self-seals after an attack, preventing oil and gasoline tankers from exploding.Shooting fuel tanks would spill gasoline onto highways and onto other vehicles in the convoy, which could then be blown up.

“In Hollywood, when Bruce Willis shoots a tank and it blows up? It doesn’t do that in real life. It leaks out,” Monk said. “Then they’d throw an incendiary device and light up the whole convoy. It was brutal and very effective ... Soldiers were mutinying. It was a death wish to take a 5,000-gallon bomb out onto the road.”

The Army looked for ways to better armor their tankers, but Monk — then co-owner at Barrier Co. in Tigard — began to think of other solutions.

Adding more armor to the tankers turned out not to be practical because of the excess weight involved, he said.

“It was the bullet hole that was the problem, not the bullet,” he said.

In response, Barrier started High Impact Technology to tackle the project. They invented a thick spray-on coating that was self-sealing. Bullets could be shot into the fuel tank, but no fuel could leak out.

“It had to be robust enough to survive the normal use and abuse of an Army truck, but also had to have enough elasticity that when the bullet goes in, it seals back up,” Monk said. “In three days, we had a working prototype. It was ugly, but it worked.”

Today, the technology, known as called BattleJacket, is protecting military fuel trucks all over the world.

Last week, HIT received a presidential award for exporting its technologies to U.S. allies, both to protect their own soldiers and critical infrastructure.

HIT’s award was the first time in 15 years that an Oregon company has won the award.

“I never thought I’d be given a presidential award for our little company,” Monk said.

Monk, who worked as an accountant before coming to Barrier and HIT, said he never expected his career to turn out the way it has.

“To shake the hands of soldiers who are living because of our technology is great,” he said. “There’s a truly innovative vein that runs in Oregon and I love being a part of that.”


Tackling a new problem

SUBMITTED PHOTO - One of HIT's blast resistant walls is currently in use in Columbus, Ohio, where it's protecting a power substation. The walls are 30 feet tall and 100 feet wide.HIT is part of a small handful of companies owned by Barrier Corporation, based in Tigard.

Together, HIT and the other companies in Barrier’s family have about 150 employees.

Monk said he likes it that way.

“We’re the tip of the spear,” Monk said. “The tip can’t be big and cumbersome — it needs to be quick and have the mass behind it.”

These days, HIT is busier than ever. After Congress stalled in 2013 and sequestration forced cuts across the federal budget, Monk transitioned the company in a new direction: protecting the heart of the nation’s electrical grid.

“Every form of power generation goes into a substation,” Monk said. “Bonneville Dam has to get that power into the grid. If you blow up a substation, you can’t get the power.”

Substations are critical to keeping the country operating, Monk said, but find themselves exposed to threats, such as fires, earthquakes and terrorist attacks.

“Taking out substations is a good way to go caveman, quick,” Monk said.

To combat this, HIT invented a new form of concrete and rebar that is blast resistant, which can be easily assembled around important infrastructure.

“You can’t shoot through it or blow it up,” Monk said. “Tornadoes and earthquakes can’t take them down.”

A substation in Ohio is currently using the technology, he said.

“There was a substation in San Jose about 18 months ago where a guy with a high-powered rifle shot it for 10 minutes, caused $14 million in damage and nearly shut off power in part of Silicon Valley,” Monk said.

That side of the business is expected to keep growing.

“The critical infrastructure side of the business could be 10 times bigger than the work we do with the military,” Monk said.

This fall, Monk will be traveling to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to work with local governments there about increasing the protection around their infrastructure. Agencies in Ohio and Texas are also considering the projects.

“Nothing moves fast — it’s glacial (but) it has huge mass behind it,” Monk said.



By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor
The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood
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