Welding together a defense: Soldiers install low-cost add-ons to vehicles
April 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - Soldiers of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team are installing some low-cost, homemade add-ons to their state-of-the-art military vehicles at Camp Taji to get an extra level of protection.
Having the best armored rides the military can provide - including the brigade's eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles - hasn't stopped Soldiers in the field from adding their own innovations, for just a few dollars more.
The practice is common in-country as Soldiers use metal tubing, bullet-proof glass, wire mesh and even "550 cord" to help brave the roads of Iraq.
Capt. Melissa Knox, commander of Company B, 328th Brigade Support Battalion, likened the value of pope glass cupolas and wire mesh cages to the MasterCard advertising slogan.
"If we can save a life by using materials that were just lying around the shop, that's 'priceless,'" Knox said.
Knox said bullet-proof glass surrounds now being mounted on top of BSB transport trucks give Soldiers greater ability to scan for hazards from a protected position. She said the add-on also allows for greater use of weapons. Knox credited BSB Soldiers for coming up with the design of the bullet-proof glass cupolas.
BSB Soldiers have also been placing wire cages around their MRAP's. Knox said battalion leaders looked at several designs before selecting the wire mesh configuration now in use.
"It's a simple process," Knox said. "We knew it would work for each of the MRAP models. There's no damage to the vehicle. These are completely removable from the vehicles."
Sgt. Laney Bankhead, of Warminster, Pa., a platoon sergeant for the Company B Service and Recovery Platoon, said Soldiers bolt 2-inch by 2-inch steel tubing onto MRAPS to serve as a base for the apparatus. Soldiers then weld outriggers onto the base and place Hesco mesh wire into slots in the outriggers. Cotter pins hold the wire mesh in place.
"We actually fabricate the mount from scratch," Bankhead said. "It's about eight hours of work to get one up and ready. We're not actually welding to the vehicle."
Cord attached to the bottom of the Hesco wire, limits how far outward the wire can swing and allows Soldiers to pull the bottom of the screen inward, toward the vehicle, for tight squeezes on narrow streets. Bankhead said the idea of the mesh surround is to deflect hand-thrown explosive objects downward.
"It's been proven to work," Bankhead said, "It's been proven to save lives."
Bankhead too said the inexpensive addition "means the world" if it makes Soldiers feel more secure or saves a life.
Bankhead said the entire apparatus can be removed in under an hour if need be. Sgt. William Funaro of Monroeville, Pa. estimated the MRAP wire mesh addition is comprised of about $400 of materials per vehicle.
Knox said battalion Soldiers have volunteered to work in the Company B welding shop in their downtime because they understand the importance of this add-on mission. Knox said the BSB began modifying its MRAP's and trucks in late March and hopes to have the project completed in the next couple weeks.