FORT HOOD — As its November deployment to Afghanistan creeps closer to reality, the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, is conducting final training to ensure all soldiers are confident and prepared.
“The more training you get, the better,” said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Caudill, Alpha Company’s senior medic. “You can never get too much training.”
The company spent Wednesday in the field training with the MRAP all-terrain vehicle — the unit’s mode of transportation after they arrive in theater.
Known as the MATV, the vehicle is armored, made for rough terrain. The .50-caliber gun on top sits about eight feet higher than the gun atop a Humvee, said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Waters, who has driven the MATV for the last three years.
Made by Oshkosh Defense, the vehicle is designed to ride on mud, highway, snow and sand, while providing a smoother ride. It’s tall enough to travel over riverbeds without damaging the engine, Waters said.
“I love ’em,” he said. “It’s like taking an 18-wheeler on the back roads and having fun with them.”
Most of the soldiers deploying are more familiar with Humvees and other military vehicles, so Waters worked with his fellow soldiers to ensure they were comfortable driving.
“I want to make sure he’s doing the fundamentals and understands how the vehicle operates,” he said.
Unlike traditional military units where each soldier has a specific job to conduct, civil affairs soldiers work in four-man teams where everyone cross-trains, regardless of the rank structure.
“On a civil affairs team, everybody needs to know where everything is at and the proper way to report,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bob Bentcliff.
This deployment will be his first with the MATV, and Bentcliff took pointers from Waters as he steered the vehicle across the rocky, uneven trails of Fort Hood’s training grounds. Because of its height, the vehicle is top-heavy, so Waters advised when to slow down and how to take sharp turns.
“Standard operating procedures have to be revamped because it sits higher,” said Bentcliff when comparing the MATV to the Humvee. “Keeping up with technology is a major plus — for us and for the guys on the ground.”
Training on the MATV will continue for the unit, alongside many other exercises to keep soldiers fresh and prepared before arriving in Afghanistan.
Read more about the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion’s training in next week’s Fort Hood Herald.