By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD The new M1114 up-armored Humvee is barely dinged by small arms fire and can take the punishment of roadside bombs and landmines without a problem.
But an unexpected patch of gravel could throw the half-ton beast on its side.
This fall, the 4th Infantry Division will take 824 of these Humvees to Iraq, a land where children often dart into the streets to greet soldiers and accept pieces of candy.
The armored Humvees predecessor didnt stop on a dime, and the armored version weighs 3,000 pounds more.
Suddenly stomping on the armored vehicles brakes can cause the back end to swing around, which is exactly what happened Tuesday when one soldier practiced such a panic stop during training to prepare soldiers to safely operate the Humvee.
The weight of the armor and a newly added gunners hatch on top of the vehicle, which is surrounded by armor, makes the Humvee top-heavy and clumsy.
The old ones will react as you react, said training instructor Walter Ramsdell. These will react like they are drunk.
Master drivers, operators and mechanics are learning the intricacies and quirks of the armored Humvees through 20 hours of training this week. Everything from an inch-thick instruction book detailing vehicle inspections to how to properly clean the windows bullet-proof glass without ruining their protective coating is covered in the 2 days of training.
The 4th Infantry will only be using armored vehicles while in Iraq and will not take any Humvees other than the 824 armored ones, said Maj. Steve Stover, a division spokesman. Soldiers will link up with other armored vehicles some built with armor and some with added armor when they arrive in the Middle East.
That makes learning the differences between armored and regular vehicles important, soldiers said.
Each took a 20-minute driving course and experimented with figure-eights and loops before taking on more hilly terrain that threatened to flip the vehicles.
A Humvee is a Humvee, but this gives us a good handle on the differences, said Staff Sgt. Eric Cool of Bravo Company, 404th Aviation Support Brigade.
The armored Humvee has several improvements over its predecessor. A favorite among soldiers is the high-powered air conditioning. Cool wondered, however, how long the air conditioning will hold up against the clogging sand of Iraq. He said the air conditioning in the AH-64 Apaches are easily plugged up with sand and is almost too much trouble to clean out.
Though considerably heavier and more clunky, the armored Humvee handles remarkably easy and provides a smooth ride, even over lopsided and rocky terrain, said Sgt. Stewart Williams of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment.
But gravel could cause a problem.
Even a simple curve with loose gravel can cause you to fish-tail if youre not careful, Williams said.
Still, Cool compared the armored Humvee to a Cadillac and said it has a civiliany feel.
The interior space has shrunk from previous Humvee models to accommodate communications equipment and the gunners hatch.
If youre claustrophobic, you dont want to sit in it, Ramsdell said. If youre tall, youre legs will fall asleep. Theres no room to stretch out.
The communications system is an upgrade from the previous models requirement of yelling to talk to one another. Headsets make conversations less strenuous, Ramsdell said.
The peace of mind provided by the armor is the biggest advantage, soldiers said. Not worrying about flying shrapnel or bullets keeps attention on radios, safe driving and accomplishing the mission, said Spc. Rick Fuscia of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Support Battalion.
Its not that you dont concentrate on whats going on outside the windows, but you can concentrate on other areas more, he said.
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