Inside the Military's New MRAP Vehicle
By Mark Geary, Reporter
CAMP SHELBY – Battles in Afghanistan are happening more and more in non-traditional places, like roads and streets. Road-side bombs have become so common, the military had to create a stronger vehicle to keep soldiers safe. It's called the "MRAP" or "Mine Resistant Ambush Protected."
"You can put your mind where it needs to be when you're not so worried about every bend in the road, every hole in the road,” Spc. James Vick of Atkins who serves with Company A, 1st Battalion of the 133rd Infantry division, said.
MRAPs can keep soldiers alive inside even if a roadside bomb explodes underneath them.
"It makes me feel a little safer,” Sgt. Anthony Myers of Dubuque and serving with Company A, 1st Battalion of the 133rd Infantry division said.
Before they get behind the wheel, soldiers train on a computer simulator that looks a lot like an arcade videogame. Instructors use the equipment to show troops what it feels like to get hit by a bomb, blow out a tire or even slide around in snow.
"It can be fun, but you also have to think of it as a training scenario. Every bit of this is real-life,” Sgt. Trent Ozburn of Cedar Rapids and serving with the Company A, 334 BSB said.
Then, a separate simulator prepares soldiers to escape from an overturned MRAP.
"It definitely will give you the instinctiveness to react quicker,” Ozburn said.
The military is phasing out the more traditional Humvee because MRAPs are a lot safer.
"It's like driving around in a little Toyota Corolla and then getting back into my Dodge 1500 pickup. It's a big difference,” Vick said.
MRAPs can cost as much as one-million dollars each and weigh between twelve and twenty tons. Cars typically weigh between two to three tons. Getting to drive and experiment with the vehicles at Camp Shelby builds confidence.
"It lets you feel a little warm and fuzzy about how the vehicles operate and what we can and can't do with them,” Sgt. Anthony Myers of Dubuque and serving with Company A, 1st Battalion of the 133rd Infantry division said.
By the time they reach Afghanistan, the men and women should be ready to handle just about any terrain or terrorist they encounter.
The National Guard also has a team of mechanics who will be traveling along to Afghanistan.
While at Camp Shelby, those mechanics worked with parts of actual MRAP vehicles to better understand how they work. This is a critical job in the National Guard because broken or damaged vehicles can cause major safety problems on the battlefield.
"I think it's very important to have mechanics out there who know how to fix this equipment,” Spc. Jeff Offerman of Cedar Rapids and serving with Company B of the 334 BSB said.
Sgt. Randy Walsh of Toledo and serving with Company B of the 334 BSB said, "In the field, it's a lot more hurried. You just get in and out of there. You don't have time to fix, you just hook and drag."
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