64th CSG Soldiers Conduct Armored Security Vehicle Training
Story by PFC Fabian Ortega
64th CSG PAO
Camp Anaconda, Iraq — "Allen wrench, vise grips, slip joint [model] number 7-3-9-4," Al Marshall called out to the Soldiers of HHC, 64th CSG, and other Soldiers who began a six day Armored Security Vehicle Operator's New Equipment Training (OPS NET) course Nov. 27, at Camp Anaconda.
Marshall, an ASV instructor and civilian contractor working for Dimensions International Incorporated, called out tool names and equipment parts, allowing Soldiers to orient themselves with the new basic issue equipment for the vehicle, during the supply transaction and property inventory portion of the course.
"Soldiers get [the M1117 ASV] straight from the manufacturer, Textron Marine and Land Systems," said David T. Ward, Fielding Manager and site lead from the Program Executive Office of Combat Support and Combat Service Support.
The ASV's are flown in from New Orleans, to the only ASV training and fielding site in the Army, which is here at Anaconda, and Soldiers assemble the vehicle's weapons systems and other vehicle components during the OPS NET course, said Ward. This will be the vehicle they take back to their units, he added.
Soldiers, like Pfc. Nathan Ellis, who is with his first unit, HHC, 64th CSG, as a radio operator maintainer, appreciate the hands on training and experience gained from assembling and disassembling the vehicles seemingly complex apparatus, said Ellis.
Ellis is one of 4 HHC, 64th CSG Soldiers at Camp Anaconda for the training. He was accompanied by fellow soldiers: Spc. Jose-Luis Mariscal, Spc. Pennifill, and Sgt. Andrea Alvarado.
"I have never worked with a weapons system like the one on the ASV," he said. "Getting a feel for the MK 19, .50 cal. and the vehicle is a new experience for me." "You learn a lot from the instructors because they give you a lot of hands on training," Ellis said.
Sgt. Andrea Alvarado, a truck driver with HHC, 64th CSG also thinks very highly of the training and the staff.
"I know when I go back to my unit and I am asked to train other Soldiers on how to operate the ASV, I can do so with confidence," she said. "I can impart whatever knowledge I gained from the teachers here, and share all of that with our Soldiers."
"I think it's the best training I have gotten while I've been in the Army," exclaimed Alvarado, when asked where she would rank the six day OPS NET course, alongside other schools she has attended during her 6 year career in the Army.
The instructors took extra time with me and went over different areas of instruction, particularly the communications and .50 cal part of the training, said Alvarado. I had a difficult time with those two areas, but they repeatedly drilled the curriculum into my head while at the same time keeping my interest in the training; so yeah, I feel very comfortable with the training.
The fielding and training site has been operating since April 2005 and instructors feel the OPS NET course is more than sufficient training for the Army's newest answer to convoy security.
Students learn through class room instruction and hands on training, some of the blocks of instruction include: procedures for vehicle rollovers, fire commands for the weapons systems, how to fire the M48 .50 cal & MK19 at an offsite range, hasty evacuation of the ASV, how to evacuate casualties from the ASV, .50 cal operations drills, and leader training.
"We teach the students everything we know," said Ricky L. Lovelace, the ASV Mobile Equipment Supervisor for Dimensions International Inc. and former Soldier. "Everything we teach them is going to help them on the battlefield; the more knowledge we give them, the more lives we may able to save."
"When they come to class, we just ask them to pay attention to every detail," said Lovelace. "When [Soldiers] leave here they will have a basic understanding of the vehicles weapons system capabilities and how to perform basic maintenance and will know how to drive the ASV during day and nighttime conditions."
"It's up to the unit to continue and further the training," Lovelace said.
Lovelace shares an adoration and admiration for the Soldiers that come through his classes, he says.
"I love training Soldiers," Lovelace said. "I have almost 15 years of teaching experience and 10 years of military experience as a [former] Soldier." "Teaching just comes easy to me, but I take it very serious. Sometimes I get Soldiers, who come through here and are very tired, but the enemy is never tired and I try to remind them of that." "[The Soldiers] are like my kids. The day of the range, I have a ritual: I won't eat breakfast or lunch until they get back from the range site."
Lovelace had glowing remarks of the group who completed the course on Dec. 2.
"The group caught on quick and is very smart. Most of all, they paid attention to the instructors." "That's all you can ask of them," said Lovelace.
Soldiers complete the course at Objective Hawaii, where the ASV is zeroed and test fired, before transporting the vehicles back to their respective units for convoy operations.
As the war in Iraq continues to evolve at a rapid pace, in primarily dealing with an enemy that has become more dangerous, wiser and elusive, maintaining the integrity of convoys and providing security for convoys has been at the Army's center of interest.
When it came to trying to find an answer to combat the current dangers Soldiers face on the roads, the Army's newest solution to convoy security pre-dated Operation Iraqi Freedom, and had been in existence in their arsenal since 2000.
"[The ASV] is a wonderful superb weapon," said Brooks O. Hubbard IV, a Department of the Army civilian working for the Military Police school training the Doctrine, Tactics and Technique procedures.
"It has proven itself in theater," said Hubbard of the ASV. "[The ASV] has allowed Soldiers to fight and defend."
"The MP's had the ASV first.. and as more convoys were being hit with IED's, the Army looked in its arsenal and decided that the ASV could save lives on the road providing convoy security."" Its armor, speed, maneuverability, communication systems, fire power and operator friendly drivability makes the [ASV] a great choice," said Hubbard.
Ward agreed, adding, "[Soldiers] can now go out and provide convoy security with enhanced protection from the enemy. The enhanced protection comes from the equipments ballistic solutions and technology that enables it to take armor piercing rounds."
"I think the ASV has proven itself in its ability to take IED strikes and continue with the mission," said Ward.
The 18th MP Brigade had a number of vehicles produced when they initially arrived in theater, Feb. 2003. ASV's have now been operating in theater for almost 3 years and have delivered great reliability and have added protection to the Soldiers, he said.
In the end, the staff works really hard in a coordinated effort to provide our Soldiers with the best training possible. We want them out there on the battlefields fighting and defending, said Ward.
Armored Security Vehicle is highly-mobile and C-130 Aircraft transportable. The vehicle's armor is capable of resisting .50 caliber armor piercing rounds and has the capability to deflect up to a 12-pound mine blast. Photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp