Sgt. Zach Mott
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- More than 1,600 improvised explosive devices have been detonated on 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, patrols in Iraq from December 2005 to November 2006 according to the official brigade tally.
In efforts to prevent deaths and injuries caused by IEDs the military added armor, both to personnel and vehicles, lawmakers in the United States urged Defense Department officials to make a change. The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle is the result of that push.
Striker Soldiers participated in a week-long training course devoted to teaching them the necessities of the MRAP prior to conducting missions in the new vehicle. In the past, the 3rd BCT's vehicle fleet consisted of Humvees, Light Medium Tactical Vehicles and various tracked vehicles. This added behemoth required specialized training for its future operators.
"I think it's a pretty nice little vehicle. Just the way it's set up and some of the capabilities; it's really nice," said Sgt. Jonathan McNemar, a gunner with Company B, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, who is on his third trip to Iraq with the 3rd BCT.
McNemar has witnessed first-hand the advancement of troop transportation in Iraq. During his first trip, from March 2003 to March 2004, most of the Humvees were 'soft skin,' or un-armored. During his second tour, from November 2005 to November 2006, vehicles that went outside the wire were required to be up-armored. Now, MRAPs fill the next evolutionary step.
"Each time it gets better as it goes along," the Spencer, W.Va., native said.
Striker Soldiers will be some of the first in Iraq to field test the new vehicles. Although, prior to being sent to combat each MRAP is put through rigorous tests stateside at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. All vehicles must pass this testing prior to being issued to troops, said Derrick Crockford, the lead field service representative at Camp Taji from DynCorp International.
Crockford said the concept behind the MRAP is simple: protect the war fighter.
"It basically involves putting more protection around the Soldier within the vehicle," the Baton Rouge, La., native said. "That being said, it puts them at a better advantage against IEDs, (vehicle borne) IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, that kind of thing."
After a week of classroom-style learning, Soldiers of the Striker Brigade are eager to put the rubber of the MRAP tires on the roads of Iraq.
"They're a smooth ride," said Cambridge, Mass., native Pfc. James Fleming, a driver from Company D, 1st CAB, 68th AR. "They're pretty nice. It's pretty much like driving a Humvee just swollen up."
With that eagerness also comes an appreciation for the added protection an MRAP is said to provide.
"I think with the safety capabilities upgraded on it I think it's going to (mean) less patients (for us) as more units get these vehicles," said Spc. Jennifer Ward, a medic from Company C, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, and King, N.C., native.