Providing Protection For Soldiers In Combat
(June 3, 2011)
May 20, 2011 -- Sgt. Jose Garza, a truck commander with the 370th Transportation Company, 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and a Houston, Texas, native, drives his heavy equipment transport back to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after delivering an order of mine resistant ambush protected vehicles to the soldiers at Contingency Operating Base Cobra, Iraq. Unlike his first tour to Iraq in 06' to 07', the 370th Transportation Company use MRAPs to escort convoys instead of humvees.
Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles delivered by the 370th Transportation Company, 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, sit in formation for the soldiers that will sign for them at Contingency Operating Base Cobra, Iraq. MRAPs offer better protection and customization for soldiers.
May 20, 2011 -- Humvees are still used in Operation New Dawn, but the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle and its ability to offer more protection to soldiers on convoys has reduced the humvee's role.
|JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (5/28/2011) – For years, the U.S. Army has been known for the quality of its soldiers and its versatility in an ever-changing battlefield. It is this ability to change and adapt that has made the humvee one of the best-known icons of the Army over the last several decades.|
The humvee, or the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), was first introduced to the Army in the late 1970s as an upgrade to larger and slower trucks. It offers speed, maneuverability and added firepower to support troops in the field that larger trucks cannot.
From the Persian Gulf War to both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the humvee has been tested to its limits. Its role as transport and a light-fire support vehicle transformed into more of a stand-alone gun truck.
“I was deployed [in Iraq] from ‘06 to ‘07 with the 370th [Transportation Company],” said Sgt. Jose Garza, a truck commander with the 370th Transportation Company, 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and a Houston, Texas, native. “[During that time] I was a driver, then a gunner, and a specialist at that time.”
The convoy escort vehicles, or “gun trucks” the 370th Transportation Company used to escort their transports were humvees at that time. In the 370th Transportation Company, certain platoons would drive palletized loading system trucks, and others would drive escort vehicles. During Garza's tour, convoys travelled at night and at times were required to wear night-vision goggles, he said.
Garza said the original intent for the humvee was not to be mine resistant.
“Its original intention was as a utility vehicle,” he said.
Both OIF and OEF introduced a new weapon of warfare: improvised explosive devices. These weapons were hand-created mines designed to incapacitate vehicles on the road. The power of these weapons proved to be a challenge to the humvee.
Later in Garza's tour, his platoon was sent to Taji to help work in the development of the “up-armored” humvees, he said.
|“It was during my time at the “frag five shop” that I got a firsthand experience with upgrades of the humvees,” he said. “It was our job to work as a conveyor belt and attached the different parts of the armor to the vehicles.”|
The experience in helping better armor the vehicle showed Garza the commitment that the military had to protecting its soldiers against new types of weapons, he said. It was also during the end of his tour that Garza got his experience with the newest vehicle, the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle.
“My first experience was with an RG-31 MRAP, and my first impression was that it was fast compared to our humvees,” he said. “My squad leader was shocked because I had this new truck topping off around 60 miles per hour.”
Just as the humvee had been designed to fit a role in the military, the MRAP was the newest vehicle on the block. It combined the best parts of the humvee and improved on them with more armor and larger passenger space.
“Driving, I felt a lot safer,” said Garza. “[The MRAP] has a lot of accommodations; it's cooler inside, faster and offers better protection.”
Now on the 370th Transportation Company's current tour, their unit's escort teams are utilizing MRAPs instead of humvees. For Soldiers like Spc. Viktor Guerrero, a driver with the 370th Transportation Company and a Los Fresno, Texas, native, they have more experience with the MRAP than of the humvee on the roads.
“[The MRAP] is built for the way that we work,” he said. “It is able to carry troops safely and quickly where they need to go.”
In the construction of the MRAP, the designers learned from the complications of upgrading the humvee with additional armor.
“Because the construction of the humvee, when we had to upgrade it with fragmentation armor, we had to remove sections of the vehicle itself,” said Garza, referring to his last deployment. “But, the MRAP has rails built along the sides for additional armor to be mounted, depended on the mission requirements.”
The iconic nature of the humvee as the military's primary vehicle may be drawing to a close, but the development and direction that it helped provide will continue to promote better vehicles and protection for the service members who drive them. For soldiers like Garza and Guerrero, the MRAP has aided them the same way the humvee aided soldiers in the early ‘80s.
“The MRAP is the Army's development to offer better and safer protection for us,” Guerrero said.
Article and photos by Army Spc. Matthew Keeler
109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Provided through DVIDS
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