By Spc. Eric A. Rutherford
115th Mobile public affairs detachment
MOSUL, Iraq — Soldiers ignored the light rain that pattered on them in the new motor pool as they carefully and eagerly inspected their new vehicles as an up-armored Humvee sat empty and dirty on the sidelines — already forgotten by the men who used the vehicle just days ago.
Soldiers of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment received some of their first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles Feb. 15 on Forward Operating Base Marez.
“We have been waiting a long time to get these,” 1st Lt. Jeffrey Boch said. “They are brand-new, and we will be taking care of them. We are looking forward to running in them and seeing what they can do.”
Boch, a platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Supply and Transport Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, said the vehicle’s larger troop capacity will put fewer soldiers’ lives at risk by reducing the number of vehicles taken on the battlefield.
The MRAP weighs three times as much as the Humvee, holds more personnel, has more power, can travel farther and has more armor. The MRAP also has a V-shaped hull for blast deflection.
“It is pretty common knowledge that the biggest threat our soldiers face over here is the improvised explosive device,” said Maj. Parker Frawley, regimental plans officer. “They are the biggest casualty causers on the battlefield, so there was a push to get the MRAP fielded to all the units across Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The push began in May 2007 when Defense Secretary Robert Gates established the MRAP program as the highest priority to Department of Defense acquisition, prompting accelerated development and fielding of the new system. The program was designed to get the MRAP to units with the highest operational tempo.
“As the threat situation in other areas of the country has decreased, it has maintained fairly steady or increased a little in Mosul,” Frawley said. “There has been a renewed thrust to get us the new MRAP a little more quickly.”
After the weeklong training course, regiment’s troops took delivery of 40 MRAPs. Soon, they will get 50 more. By mid-May the final number should be around 300, Frawley said.
The basic platform of the new MRAP features upgraded fire suppression systems, basic light packages and communication equipment. As each unit uses the vehicle for different missions they may need to modify the vehicle as they see fit, much like they did with Humvees.
“No one like the American soldier is quite as adept at putting some innovative thought into how best to use these vehicles, from putting light bars on them to how to route them because of power lines in the city,” Frawley said. “We are talking about potentially using them as ambulances. There is a lot of innovation going on with the vehicle to see what we can do with it to use it.”
The soldiers have already made some improvements, such as modifying the MRAP with gunner restraint systems. The platoon completed its first combat mission Thursday with the MRAP. Where normally soldiers would use the Humvee to provide gun truck security for a Combat Logistical Patrol, they rolled the MRAP to remote areas of Ninevah province to deliver food and supplies to small outposts that don’t have a continuous supply chain.
Boch said the MRAP’s ability to handle Iraq’s adverse conditions are going to make it easier for his soldiers to complete their mission safely.
The mission wasn’t without a few problems, but on this mission, the MRAP was the solution to the problems. During the patrol, a recovery vehicle went down with a broken throttle cable. To remove the vehicle from the road where it was susceptible to ambush, soldiers quickly hooked the recovery vehicle to their MRAP and towed it out of harm’s way.
“There are a few minor adjustments we need to make, but it went pretty well,” said Spc. Trevor Owen, an MRAP driver. “You can see more. I couldn’t see out the passenger side of the Humvee, but now I can see higher through the windshield, all around; visibility is just better. We are making adjustments as we go.”