Wranglers Learn to Run MRAP

Story and Photos by Sgt. John D. Ortiz
4th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — A much talked about vehicle is slowly making the rounds around here; building the excitement for the new crewmembers tasked to operate it, but before they can drive the vehicle, they must learn the capabilities of the vehicle through hands-on training.

No other operational military vehicle has had the amount of media and press built around it than the Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle or MRAP for short.

Convoy escort teams within the 4th Sustainment Brigade have been the first to field the MRAP for theater-wide logistics distribution.

To get to that point, several individuals flew to Baghdad to receive their training certification and to build the lesson plan for members of the 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and two of the brigade’s transportation battalions, Joint Logistics Task Force 28 and 6th Transportation Battalion, who will be assigned to operate the vehicle.

Building on lessons learned from JLTF 28, the 1168th Transportation Company with the Iowa Army National Guard took the lead within the 6th Trans. to certify escort gun truck teams to operate the newest vehicle in the field.

“We took the training that 28th did and condensed the classroom portion to give our students a little bit more time hands-on the MRAP,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dean Avery, with the 1168th Transportation Company, the primary instructor for the 6th Transportation Battalion.

The first thing that Avery talked to the class was about the MRAP and how the design was built to withstand and deflect IED blasts, increasing crew member survivability.

A slide show presentation gave the students an idea of the power the vehicle has to safely shield the crew members and passengers, which were the main reason the Department of Defense began fielding the vehicle.

Through the 40-hour class, members were provided classroom based instruction on MRAP fundamentals.

One of the major concerns noted during the class is the version of the MRAP used in the brigade sits high off the ground, has numerous blind spots, and has many heavy moving parts located throughout the vehicle.

To familiarize drivers and to combat those concerns, the training went to the hands-on phase in which drivers were give the ability to drive the vehicle through an obstacle course that simulated road conditions that operators would encounter on the roads of Kuwait and Iraq, and to the live-fire range for weapon familiarization from the new vehicle and new position.

During the hands on training, members of the escort teams became familiar with several features unique to the MRAP.

Features such as hydraulically-assisted doors, energy absorbing seats for blast protection, fire suppression system, rear hatch opening, and run flat tires were all discussed to give operators a better feel for the new vehicle system.

During the course, the instructor stated that the brigade received the MRAPS from Iraq and were bare-bones.

One of the new features of the MRAP is the added use of an additional exit point in the unfortunate event the vehicle rolls over.

“This is the easiest vehicle to get out of in any position,” said Sgt. Brian Plath with the 1168th Trans. Co. and instructor of the egress drill during the training.

“Having the hatches in the back is another exit point for the passengers and gunner to get out if the gunner’s hatch is smashed,” he said. “With all the gear on, being in the bigger vehicle has an advantage because it has more room to move around and crawl your way out of an exit, because in the end, you have your life to get out of the vehicle.”

The driver’s seat is the best seat in the house according to Avery. The seats all have 4-point harnesses and have blast protection incorporated into the seats to give some leeway if the vehicle hits an IED.

“I don’t know how it will roll in convoys, because I am used to Humvees,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Thumma, a convoy escort team commander with the 1168th Transportation Company with the Iowa Army National Guard.

“It seems pretty nice from looking and being inside and has a little bit more equipment than [an up-armored humvee], he said.

“Height-wise and with the armor on the outside of the MRAP gives the vehicle a better safety rating to survive a blast, but I have my differences with the vehicle and right now I’d rather be in a humvee until we become more familiar and customize the MRAPS to our needs,” he said.

 

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CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Sgt. Monica E. Coussens, a native of New Liberty, Iowa, and a gun truck commander with the 1168th Transportation Company, Iowa Army National Guard, instructs a student going through the 4th Sustainment Brigade MRAP driver's training class on the unique features available to the driver such as cruise control, remote controlled mirrors, and hydraulically-assisted doors. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)

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CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Sgt. Brian Plath, a native of Forest City, Iowa, and a gunner with the 1168th Transportation Company, Iowa Army National Guard, shows how to exit the MRAP through the rear hatch of the vehicle through normal exit procedures and when the vehicle loses all hydraulic power. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)