[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                               September 12, 2008

New tactical vehicle being 
used at Fort McCoy

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

A new tactical vehicle began prowling the Fort McCoy streets, range routes and training lanes recently. A little different than what has been seen normally at the Wisconsin Army installation, it now is steadily becoming more visible worldwide.

Photo: Soldiers get a close up view of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle during training at Fort McCoy. Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ellsworth (left, in soft cap) of the 2nd, 411th Logistical Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade instructs the Soldiers. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Soldiers get a close up view of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle during training at Fort McCoy. Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ellsworth (left, in soft cap) of the 2nd, 411th Logistical Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade instructs the Soldiers. (Photo by Tom Michele)

"The new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle is designed to keep the crew alive," Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ellsworth said. "You can replace vehicles and parts, but you can’t replace individual Soldiers’ lives."

Ellsworth is a member of the 2nd, 411th Logistical Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, the trainers for the mobilization process at McCoy.

"Many of these vehicles have been implemented in-theater overseas," Ells-worth said, "and now we are getting some of them here so we can train Soldiers on them before the Soldiers head overseas."

The Eagle Brigade instructor said Soldiers are given instruction for a four-day period, the first classes being Aug. 13-16 and 17-20. That training was given to 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard as the Red Arrow Brigade was conducting its three-week extended combat training (ECT) at McCoy.

The 32nd has regularly conducted its ECT at its home state Army site for nearly a century, but they have been concentrating on mobilization training for their weekend drills for the past year as they were alerted and recently have received orders for a tour in South Central Asia. The MRAP training fits exactly into their preparedness needs.

Ellsworth said it is important to "have Soldiers get hands-on experience with the MRAP before they go into theater so they are one step ahead."

With the MRAP having a more common label and name of "Cougar," Ellsworth related, "we teach Soldiers to treat the Cougar as an ‘animal.’ It is a 20-ton animal, but it needs to be fed, fueled. Before the crew eats or sleeps, they must take care of the beast that will sustain them in the combat arena — maintenance, preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS). All to be ready to prowl the countryside."

The training sergeant said MRAP operators, like most mechanical operators, "must take care of the ‘animal’ before you take care of yourself. Do not neglect or forget the ‘animal.’ It will remember and, then in combat, give up on you. It’s all about that cliché, ‘attention to detail.’ The operator is part of that animal, part of that team."

Ellsworth went a little deeper, "I’m training my Soldiers with the highest priority. This is an awesome and an exciting time. We teach the Soldier drivers the priorities of driving so the rest of the crew can do their specific missions. That crew will vary from six to 13 Soldiers, depending on the variation of the vehicle. There are about seven different configurations, several sub-categories according to weight, and there are also about five different manufacturers."

Ellsworth emphasized communications between crew members is critical, specifically between the driver, truck commander and gunner.

Crew members wear the microphone and ear piece head sets inside their helmets for effective communication and hearing protection.

There are side and rear windows in the vehicle, but they are not especially large so that they may be much more blast resistant.

Soldiers going through the four-day training session take a written and also a road test and are licensed in accordance with Army regulations, Ellsworth mentioned. Ellsworth took a two-week instructor training class in Texarkana, Texas, to get his certification.

Part of the ‘bottom line’ of the new vehicle is that it is designed to replace the armored High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) in certain combat theater operations, according to Ellsworth.

MRAPs were first fielded in combat theaters of operation in 2006, primarily for route-clearance and explosive-ordnance-disposal operations, but also for supporting security, convoy escort, troop or cargo transport, medical transport and combat engineer operations. MRAPs are being fielded right off of the manufacturers’ assembly line.

A May 15, 2008, Department of Defense press transcript states, "The casualty rate for MRAPs is 6 percent, making it ‘the most survivable vehicle we have in our arsenal by a multitude.’"

Ellsworth said one of the most- important aspects about MRAP training at Fort McCoy is that, "Experience is the best teacher, and we want to teach Soldiers here before they go into theater. They will be safer operators if they learn about the capabilities and dangers — if they learn it here instead of learning it in a combat scenario."

One of the problems encountered with MRAPs is the vehicle has a higher center of gravity than some other vehicles, and, along with much softer highway shoulders in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, are that vehicle rollovers have been a problem.

"MRAP manufacturer designers are working on that situation," Ellsworth said.

Spec. Daniel Beaver, of the 32nd Brigade, said, from the driver’s seat of the MRAP, "I get a chance to drive a really big truck. This truck’s important because it’s important to stay alive. This one’s way safer than a HMMWV."

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)


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