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Military-style vehicle factory may set up shop in Portal
Focused on fun
Phil Boyum, foreground, a Statesboro Herald reporter, and Jake Hallman, Connect Statesboro editor, are seen driving one of the Torque vehicles - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
    A factory sits empty, unused, wasted, just outside the city of Portal.
    Hundreds of veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom come home to no jobs, failed marriages, and despair.
    Those soldiers still overseas use equipment that is lacking and need utility vehicles that fit their needs.
    And Caleb Stine of Torque Products thinks he has the answer to these situations.
    The Kennesaw, Ga. resident came home from the war to a divorce and three lay-offs. An aircraft mechanic in  the military, he decided he would take action instead of following the path of depression he said so many war veterans take — almost 140 a week are committing suicide upon their return, he said.
    Pride Manufacturing's old building would be the perfect place to house a factory that builds military style vehicles — like those Stine designed, those available through his business, Torque Products.
    Hiring military veterans, providing them not only jobs but a link to others facing the same issues they do, would provide a service that is sorely needed. And the vehicles Torque Products offers would give those fighting overseas what they need in a utility vehicle.
    Stine should know. He's been there.
    Friday he and a partner were in Portal with two of his designs — the Rover, which can carry 2,400 pounds, and has room for using weapons, with a wind shield that opens and lays down flat. The motor is "very simple," and parts are easily obtained and easy to work on.
    The Aggressor has six wheels, can carry a great deal of weight, and like all Torque Products, is made of 12-gauge steel.
    The vehicles are designed to be used, and to be efficient, Stine said. He calls upon his experiences working with special forces to design what he saw was needed, but the vehicles aren't just for the military — they're street legal, and for sale to civilians.
    They took the vehicles to a small mud pond about for miles from Portal, where hills and bumps and mud were ready for drivers to test drive them where it counts.
    The Rover and Aggressor climbed steep hills, bounced across ruts and ravines, and sent showers of muddy water skyward. The tough-as-steel vehicles crunched small trees and came back for more, just like the truck advertisements seen on television.
    But, Stine said, his vehicles still run after the abuse.
Helping others
    Stine said his creations evolved from needs he saw while in the military. "Everything we did in our unit, we pretty much made our own equipment," he said. Torque Products builds on needs he saw, and he tried to "improve, and make them better to fill the void. (Soldiers) need utility vehicles that will do more."
    His company can compete with overseas companies, make a better product that is easier to work on and is easier to find parts for, he said.
    But that's only a part of why Stine started Torque Products.
    He's happily married now to his second wife, but when he returned home from service overseas, there was trouble with his first marriage. Then he was laid off three times in a row.
    It was because the honesty and integrity a soldier is taught is not what is desired in the business world, he said.
    "On a constant basis I was asked to lie and steal and cheat customers," he said. Cutting corners on a product and taking advantage of customers was "the way to  make money." Stine didn't like that.
    There was also no good program to help soldiers adjust from the emphasis on honesty, integrity and ethics taught in the military and real life, he said. Making the transition resulted in "culture shock and they didn't do very well" upon coming home.
    Instead of giving up like so many frustrated and stressed veterans have done, Stine decided to make a difference and fight back.
    Torque Products can make a good product and employ veterans, giving them counseling, the fellowship with others who have been through what they did, and help adjusting to life back in " the real world," he said.
Portal is "the place"
    Stine said he could house his company in Atlanta, where tax breaks could result in having a virtually free factory site, but "Portal is the place to be," he said. "Just call it a gut feeling."
    OK, so Portal is where his wife Amber's parents live. That's one reason it works for Stine, but Portal is also a lot closer to the ports and the military bases.
    It is also a small town with 75 percent of its residents having lower income, and a great many of its residents are veterans. A factory in town could be a big boost for Portal, he said.
    He has already discussed his ideas with Portal Mayor Larry Motes, who is working with others regarding a possible grant. Stine said he and Motes will meet with others Wednesday to discuss the idea.
    He has hopes that Pride Manufacturing will soon become Torque Products.
    "This is where my heart is," he said, referring to helping military guys adjust by giving them work and support. He has already formed a nonprofit organization, Operation Freedom Home, to help those soldiers like himself who came home from fighting for his country to face bitter reality.
    Stine said more information about his products can be found on Internet web site
    According to information from the site, "Torque Products Inc. was built from the ground up by former military special operators to provide the best products in the industry.
    "We have put our vehicles to the test with U.S. military personnel, outdoors men, law enforcement, search and rescue, and contractors. Our products are custom built to fit the operators exact needs for optimal job or mission success. Our products are improved and modified based on feedback from our customers."
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