|Story & photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
The mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) all-terrain
vehicle (M-ATV), the newest member of the MRAP family, made its
appearance on Fort McCoy’s roads and off-roads, in recent months.
Mobilizing Soldiers successfully negotiated several miles of Fort
McCoy’s hilly and curvy tank trails through 14-inches of snow and ice
with the new M-ATVs, according to Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ellsworth, master
driver trainer with the 2/411th Logistics Support Battalion, 181st
Infantry Brigade. Tire chains on the M-ATVs proved very effective.
Soldiers orient themselves to the
M-ATV during a driver training course. From left are, in the
cab, Capt. Ryan Babcock and Cpl. Mark Moll. On the floor are
Sgt. Patrice Devereaux, and Sgt. Kevin Phelps. All are with the
1249th Engineer Battalion, an Oregon Army National Guard unit
preparing to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“The M-ATV is designed to operate off-road on improved roads,
unimproved roads, the dirt and sand trails like on Army installation
tank trails, and dirt-and-gravel hard pack. There are almost no improved
or paved roads in Afghanistan,” Ellsworth said.
“Fort McCoy’s trails are among the few such trails available at any
mobilization station that replicate what U.S. forces will encounter in
Afghanistan,” Ellsworth said, referring to the winter conditions.
The M-ATV provides power when needed to overcome obstacles and traverse
rough terrain, Ellsworth said. The new M-ATV helps stabilize the vehicle
for off-road driving.
The M-ATV looks much like other vehicles in the MRAP family.
Differences are mostly in the gross vehicle weight and number of
personnel carried on board. The M-ATV is the smallest in the MRAP
Each class of MRAP vehicle has different power plants, gross vehicle
weights, and some carry up to 11 personnel, all depending on the mission
purpose of the vehicle. Some are configured as ambulances to carry up to
three litter patients. Others have differing levels of armor protection
or carry different cargoes.
Other tactical combat vehicles with MRAP-like capabilities are the
Buffalo mine-clearance vehicle and Husky mine-detection vehicle.
The MRAP design helps deflect explosive blasts.
“We trained 12 Soldiers on the M-ATVs from each of the engineer units
(1249th, 877th and 649th) that mobilized at Fort McCoy,” Ellsworth said.
“The MRAP driver training at Fort McCoy is very important because the
Soldiers we certified can provide training to other personnel in their
unit, in accordance with U.S. Army Forces Command and First Army MRAP
training guidance,” Ellsworth said.
“Those newly certified driver trainers can build a foundation and
experience in their other Soldiers so, when they go outside the wire,
outside the contingency operating locations, it won’t be the first time
the Soldiers get behind the wheel of the vehicle,” Ellsworth said.
“Driver’s training is a journey, not a destination.”
Part of MRAP driver training is PMCS, Preventative Maintenance Checks
and Services, where vehicles are very thoroughly inspected before
If a vehicle is not in good condition, attempts must be made to correct
“PMCS absolutely must be performed,” Ellsworth said. “Soldiers must take
care of their vehicles.”
Other aspects of driver training include using devices during periods of
Driving also is performed in blackout conditions, operating in the dark
with a “minimal directed light source,” comparable to a small
flashlight, and has been conducted by the military for decades.
“We train drivers in winch operation in order to pull themselves out of
a difficult situation, vehicle towing operations and in vehicle rollover
situations and rollover egress. We also do casualty-evacuation battle
drills,” Ellsworth said.