By Sgt. Zach Mott
4th Infantry Division public affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — More than 1,600 improvised explosive devices detonated on 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division patrols in Iraq from December 2005 to November 2006, according to the brigade’s official tally.
In order to prevent deaths and injuries caused by IEDs, the military needed armor added to personnel and vehicles, and U.S. lawmakers urged Defense Department officials to make a change. The mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle is the result of that push.
The shear size of an MRAP is nearly enough to scare an IED into submission. The MRAP stands nearly 20 feet tall.
The brigade’s soldiers participated in a weeklong training course devoted to teaching them the necessities of the MRAP prior to conducting missions in the new vehicle. In the past, the brigade’s vehicle fleet consisted of humvees, light medium tactical vehicles and various tracked vehicles. The MRAP required specialized training for its future operators.
“I think it’s a pretty nice little vehicle, just the way it’s set up and some of the capabilities,” said Sgt. Jonathan McNemar, a gunner with Bravo Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, who is on his third trip to Iraq with the brigade. “It’s really nice.”
McNemar has witnessed firsthand the advancement of troop transportation in Iraq. During his first trip, from March 2003 to March 2004, most of the Humvees were “soft skin,” or unarmored. During his second tour, from November 2005 to November 2006, vehicles that went outside the wire were required to be up-armored.
Now, MRAPs fill the next evolutionary step.
“Each time it gets better as it goes along,” McNemar said.
The brigade’s soldiers will be some of the first in Iraq to field test the new vehicles. Prior to being sent to combat, each MRAP is put through rigorous tests stateside at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. All vehicles must pass this testing prior to being issued to troops, said Derrick Crockford, the lead field service representative at Camp Taji from DynCorp International.
Crockford said the concept behind the MRAP is simple: Protect the war fighter.
“It basically involves putting more protection around the soldier within the vehicle,” Crockford said. “That being said, it puts them at a better advantage against IEDs, (vehicle-born) IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades, mines — that kind of thing.”
After a week of classroom-style learning, the brigade’s soldiers are eager to put the rubber of the MRAP tires on the roads of Iraq.
“They’re a smooth ride,” said Pfc. James Fleming, a driver from Delta Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment. “They’re pretty nice. It’s pretty much like driving a humvee, just swollen up.”
With that eagerness also comes an appreciation for the added protection an MRAP is said to provide.
“With the safety capabilities upgraded on it, I think it’s going to (mean) less patients (for us) as more units get these vehicles,” said Spc. Jennifer Ward, a medic from Charlie Company, 64th Brigade Support Battalion.