By Lacey Justinger, Triad Contributor
There have been 34 Humvee rollovers in-theater during the last
two years; in the 18 previous years there were only 30 rollovers.
Maj. Devin Larson (left) gains
his balance as Sgt. James Compston, both trainers with the 4th
Cavalry Brigade, crawl from the upside down HEAT equipment that
will be used in mobilization training at Fort McCoy. (Photo
by Lacey Justinger)
Because Soldiers are more likely to survive with egress
training, the 4th Cavalry Brigade of Fort Knox, Ky., made it a
priority to acquire a new mobilization training tool.
The Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT) is an up-armored
Humvee chassis with a hydraulic motor that spins the vehicle in a
360-degree rollover simulation.
"It teaches what to do in the actual event of a vehicle
rollover so the Soldiers are used to feeling disorientated when coming
out," said Capt. Leonard Zech of the 4th Cavalry Brigade.
The HEAT trainer pitches to the side at 25 and 30 degree angles
so Soldiers are familiarized with the angle of a Humvee rollover.
It then flips down to 180 degrees where Soldiers hang
upside-down for a few moments to gain confidence in the seat belt
strength and to find brace points for when they disengage.
The HEAT trainer will then turn upright and then roll over once
more before Soldiers disengage doors and begin the egress.
"It takes a minute to get your bearings; it's very
disorienting when you come out," said Maj. Devin Larson, a 4th
Cavalry Brigade training officer. "After the rollover I felt like
I should be on the other side of the vehicle. The purpose of the
trainer is to know what it feels like at 25 degrees when you're about
to roll over and how to quickly and safely get out."
Capt. Leonard Zech tests the
movement of the 4th Cavalry Brigade's Hummer Egress Assistance
Trainer that will be used to train mobilizing Soldiers at Fort
(U.S. Army photograph)
Improvised Explosive Device explosions or vehicle accidents
usually will jam at least one of the doors. So in the training, the
first Soldier to get a door open will drop down, call out and all
others follow by kicking aside seat cushions and moving toward the
opening by sliding across the interior roof.
"You are getting the actual experience rather than a
simulation," said Sgt. James Compston, one of the Soldiers from
the 4th Cavalry Brigade who demonstrated the vehicle roll and escape
twice. "It's like a
roller coaster ride, except just a little warmer. There's no air flow
when you are hanging upside down."
During a vehicle rollover in-theater, Soldiers would have to
grab and hold the gunner inside the vehicle so that gunner is not
thrown out during the roll. The new designs of the HEAT trainers will
have enclosed turrets to protect the gunner during egress training.
The main purposes of the training is to teach Soldiers how to
escape the vehicle, even while under fire; for Soldiers to
instinctively recognize rollover warning signs and how to take proper
action to ensure the safety of all crew members.
"We're going to run this 24-hours-a-day to make time for
every mobilizing Soldier to experience this," said Norm Abbott,
the mobilization plan technician with the 4th Cavalry Brigade.
"We'll do most of the training in the evening hours since the
Soldiers already have a full plate during the day."
"I appreciate the training support offered here at Fort
McCoy. We just set up and we already have Soldiers from other units
asking us how to be involved," said Zech. The Directorate of
Support Services Public Works Department and the Transportation Motor
Pool also assisted in the set up.
After the Humvee rollover problem was identified, three models
of HEAT trainers were initially created and tested in motor pools.
A team combined the best working elements from each of the
initial models to build the standard Army HEAT trainer. There are 53
Humvee rollover trainers being produced in the United States, and Fort
McCoy will receive its permanent trainer in August.
The current HEAT trainer at Fort McCoy is one of the original
creations on loan to the 4th Cavalry Brigade.
"There was a lot of coordination to work through but it's
that important to get realistic training," said Abbott.
"This is the real McCoy."
(Justinger is a public affairs specialist
for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base
(See related story.)