By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division - Center
NUMANIYAH, Iraq – An opportunity presented itself for Iraqi security forces when U.S. service members upgraded their armored vehicles.
U.S. forces received the new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles beginning in 2007, which provide improved protection against roadside bombs, and traded in thousands of still-serviceable Humvees in return.
The excess Gumvees didn't sit for long as Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq began transferring them over to the ISF.
"Really, it's going to give them more up-armored protection. This is going to give them that much more capability to accomplish their mission," said Lt. Col. Nick Mastrovito, of Morristown, Tenn., a senior adviser for the Numaniyah Regional Training Center.
The Iraqi army received the first set of vehicles in March.
"It has a lot of maneuver, and it works in different territories. Plus, it's already armored, which gives Soldiers more morale in the fight. It's better than the old trucks Iraqi army used without armor," said Col. Jassim Mohammed, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, which recently received 37 of the refurbished Humvees.
Coalition forces plan to deliver more than 8,500 refurbished Humvees to various ISF components by the end of 2009. To date, around 3,200 humvees have been turned in by Multi-National Corps – Iraq for refurbishing, and the ISF has received more than 1,700 humvees already – which are a vast improvement.
"It's better than a pickup truck with a [machine gun] in the back. That's pretty much what their gun trucks looked like," Mastrovito said.
Another issue is not only the quality of vehicles ISF were using, but the diverse quantity they had at hand, which could actually hinder their mission.
"You name it, they were using it," Mastrovito said. "They had a whole hodge-podge of vehicles."
The variety of vehicles creates a complicated logistical problem for Iraqi forces.
"With a big variety of trucks, it's too hard to maintain," said Sgt. Wessam Gharib, with the 1st Bn., 30th Bde., 8th IA Div. "The Humvee truck is [easier] and you can get good experience to maintain it in time."
It's more difficult to find the right parts because there is such a vast stock of supplies from which to choose. In many cases, Iraqi units relied on modifying the parts they needed based on what they had. A maintenance unit would make as many as 50 different modifications just to get a vehicle up and running.
Commander Kurt Mondlak, of Norfolk, Va., commander of the Logistics Maintenance Advisory Team at the an-Numaniyah Military Training Base said this system can work, but it slows down the maintenance process.
With the new humvees, Iraqi forces have a more-standardized vehicle that can sometimes replace three or four different types of trucks.
"The Humvee trucks brought flexibility; the Iraqi Army can benefit from it," Jassim said.
Most of the Humvee drivers and mechanics are trained at the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute in Taji, where the the vehicles are refurbished. Since February, IASSI has trained more than 1,200 drivers and 200 mechanics.
The transfer also created 300 new jobs to Iraqi citizens, with 200 more on the way, to satisfy the refurbishment needs. Once the 8,500-humvee quota is met, these workers will have gained the experience necessary to work on Iraqi bases and commercial vehicles throughout the country.
The refurbishes, valued at $22,000 per vehicle, are funded by MNSTC-I, which is responsible for improving ISF capability and improving the quality of their institutional performance.
"Of course it will make our job more and more easy. This is perfect," said Pvt. Jivara Adel. "It's got the flexibility and maneuvers so it will help us do our job in the future."
As a result, the vehicles allow ISF the opportunity to maintain more of the battle space and become more self-sufficient. This allows coalition forces to continue their transfer into an advisory role as security gains continue to improve.