News: 63rd Ordnance goes for a roll
Story by Staff Sgt. David Chapman
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — The truck goes black and all you can hear and feel is the tumbling rotation as your vehicle lurches, rolls and flips violently to the bottom of the ditch. Flames and smoke fill the burning truck. You can’t tell top from bottom but you know you have to get out. What do you do next?
This is a scenario that can lay deep in the back of a soldier’s mind while driving or riding in a mine resistant ambush protected truck. The nine different variations of the vehicle have been proven to protect soldiers better against the threat of improvised explosive devices compared to the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle used earlier in Afghanistan and Iraq. The added height and armor comes with a different danger.
“The MRAPs have a higher center of gravity than the humvee’s do,” said Dan Gerber, instructor, operator, and maintainer for Western Regional Training Support Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “The rollover angles are close, but the MRAPs have a tendency to hit the critical rollover angle faster.”
As the 63rd Ordnance Company prepares to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, taking part in MRAP egress training provides these soldiers an opportunity to experience a vehicle rollover in a controlled environment, take the proper steps to escape the vehicle and ensure that the rest of their team gets to safety.
On the morning of Sept. 6, the soldiers received an initial briefing about the 52,000-pound truck and its safety systems and how to properly exit the vehicle.
Then they moved to the simulation vehicle, strapped in and were put through four battle drills. The training begins by rotating the vehicle to illustrate the critical rollover angles for each vehicle variant.
Next, the soldiers were rotated 360 degrees to show them that their seat belt systems work and to build confidence in their equipment.
The final two drills require that the soldiers egress the vehicle through different methods and at different angles, either out the gunner’s turret or out the vehicles doors or rear hatch. No matter how they escape teamwork is a vital part of making the process successful.
“During the initial briefing I basically tell them that these variants have no soul. They don’t care about the soldiers,” Gerber said. “The soldiers need to care about the safety of each other and to work as a team. If they don’t have good team players then the whole training process can fall apart.”
Some of the soldiers, who had never done this type of training before, were apprehensive going in.
“I was a little nervous about this training, thinking that I would fall and get hurt. I didn’t think I would be strong enough to hold my weight and get out of the seat belt so I was really scared,” said Pvt. Mercedes Cox, ammunition specialist, 63rd Ordnance Company. “Now that I have done it, it definitely helped my nerves. I have a lot more confidence now that if a crash should ever happen I will be able to get out.”
For Sgt. Eric Renner, knowing that he could be the senior non-commissioned officer in the vehicle and the vehicle commander, he understood the importance of getting this training right.
“Of course if there is ever an accident I want them to make sure they have accountability of their weapon and radios, but more importantly is the health and welfare of everyone in the truck. It is more important to bring everyone home to their moms and dads,” Renner said.
This equipment familiarity is just another step in a series of several that continues to prepare the ordnance company for its upcoming deployment. Next, the company will travel to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., to continue its training later this month.