News: MRAP operator training teaches driving, safety issues
Story by Spc. Howard Alperin
BAGHDAD — The side doors, operated by an electric hydraulic system, weigh 1,400 pounds each and have the words "Pinch Point" labeled in big letters next to where the doors open and close.
It is a reminder to Soldiers of the safety issues involved when getting in and out of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle.
"The vehicle will take care of you, but respect the vehicle," declared Frank Davis, the civilian instructor at the Regional Support Area on Camp Liberty, to Soldiers attending the Operators New Equipment Training class.
All of the instructors for MRAP vehicle classes are former military service members. These knowledgeable instructors don't hold back when guiding their students. It's their job to train Soldiers to standard so when they are out on mission they know how to use their MRAP vehicle safely.
The class has 40 hours of instructional time divided up over 4 days. It covers preventative maintenance checks and services, recognizing warnings, cautions and controls of the vehicle, egress and roll-over drills, operating the gunner's point kit, ground-guide procedures, and day and night-time driving. Soldiers are tested on their knowledge on the last day.
During the first day of class, Soldiers received hands-on training inside and outside of an MRAP vehicle.
"We learned that the seatbelts are a five-point harness, that the windows are able to withstand a .50 cal [round], how to get in and out of the hatches, the driver's control, how to turn the vehicle on and off, releasing and applying the brakes, and making sure things are locked up when we're done," said Spc. Chase James, from Newark, Del.
As supply and logistics specialists, these Soldiers of the 702nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division will travel often to forward operating bases in the Baghdad area. Many of the Soldiers taking the class have recently arrived in country and most have never driven an MRAP vehicle.
"I'm pretty excited about getting on the road. I want to get my license so I can go outside the wire and support everybody else through re-supply missions," said James.
In order to learn how to operate these vehicles, Soldiers must get to know their characteristics.
"We went over all the controls and control panel. They are all labeled in there, but it's good to know where they are in case of night-time driving," said Spc. Josh Overton, a personal security detachment team member, from West Liberty, Ohio.
"Also, we went over switches for the AC, heat, power doors, and how to properly open and close the doors without making them malfunction."
"Mostly what we're learning is how to properly control and move around in the MRAPs, how you do your egress, what you do with the rollover, what you have to be thinking," continued Overton. "It's practice for when you're outside doing the real thing. That way, when something happens, it's a habit, and we're able to perform better and possibly save lives."
Soldiers take what they are taught about the vehicle's physical features and capabilities, and apply it to daytime and night-time drives.
"For someone who is used to humvees, it's a step up regarding space, equipment and gadgets," said Spc. Mike Demma, an electrician from Traverse City, Mich., who recently completed the driving portion and test for the class. "There are quite a few blind spots. It's important to readjust your mirrors and utilize them. You've got to make sure you can see around your vehicle."
"You have to watch for the edges of the shoulder and look for potholes or anything that might cause the vehicle to rock because this multiplies the possibility of a rollover. The vehicle is top-heavy. In making turns, you have to be cautious. You really don't want to brake or accelerate."
During the two days of driving, Soldiers learn to drive on a variety of surfaces and grades.
"They took us up and down slopes and we practiced four-wheel drive," said Demma. "They take you through different terrain features to become familiarized and comfortable with the vehicle. There is a hardball course, pavement, and we did off-road too with sand and mud."
After graduating the class, Soldiers are able to use their knowledge in the role of train the trainer.
"Its extensive training, very thorough, but you learn what you need to know. Its good information to pass on to your battle buddies that haven't been through the class, so that at any given time if the situation arises, somebody can hop up in that seat and feel confident in driving the vehicle," said Demma. "The trainers are all [subject matter experts], they've got it down; they're excellent."