CAMP STRIKER, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 16, 2007) - One of the top killers of Soldiers in Iraq isn't necessarily combat related. Since operations began there in 2003, many Soldiers have died trying to escape Humvees that have rolled into Iraq's numerous irrigation canals.
When an armored truck is upside down or on its side, it can take three Soldiers to push a door open wide enough for passengers to escape. Doors sunken into mud are nearly impossible to open.
"If you go into a canal, there's a really good chance you won't come out alive," said Bill Del Solar, safety officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
After some experimentation, he developed the Rat Claw, a flat, steel hook that attaches to almost anything - the Humvee's built-in winch or towing hook, a chain set or aircraft cable. One tug with another vehicle can open the door, or if necessary pull it completely off.
"If you get a little momentum, you can pull anything off," Del Solar said.
The operation typically takes less than a minute. In the worst cases, it can take three minutes from the time the vehicle goes into the water.
The human brain can go three to four minutes without oxygen before suffering damage, Del Solar pointed out.
"It's a reasonable amount of time for a rescue," he said.
The 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, recently used the Rat Claw when a Humvee flipped over in an IED explosion. The doors were damaged by the force of the blast, but Soldiers were able to open the vehicle and extract their wounded comrades, including Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, their battalion commander.
"I remember I was pinned inside the truck," said Infanti. "Fuel was dripping on me. I was in pain, but the Soldiers did extremely well and the Rat Claw worked. It took one try and I was out of the vehicle.
"Honestly, I don't know how they would've gotten me out with the equipment we had on hand, if we didn't have the Rat Claw," he said.
The Rat Claw can be used to turn a vehicle over or even pull it completely out of a canal.
"We hope it will save lives by making it easier for fellow Soldiers to rescue each other," said Del Solar.