Pfc. Michael McKay, a 4th Engineer Battalion combat engineer, assembles pieces of the Redpack, the mobile spare part unit, during a three-day assembly process May 4 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

In a war in which the most prevalent cause of death for troops is the improvised explosive device, the U.S. military constantly seeks to improve vehicles that safeguard the lives of servicemembers. Troops have driven the Husky, the premier vehicle in the U.S. Army Interim Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection Program, in Iraq since 2003. Because of its success in the battlefield, the upgraded Mk3 Husky is now being fielded in Afghanistan where an increasing amount of Soldiers arrive weekly.

As a preemptive measure, Soldiers of the 4th Engineer Battalion fielded the Mk3 Husky, currently manufactured by Critical Solutions International, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense contractor CSI has been training and supporting combat engineers in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism.

"We\'ve currently got about four or five operational systems, which are two huskies and one Redpack, in [Afghanistan] for the United States Army as well as other huskies assigned to the United States Marine Corps down south," said Richard L. Lowdon, a CSI field service representative.

The Redpack, towed behind the Husky, consists of mobile spare parts including extra pulse-detection panels and tools for assembly and repair. As a route-clearance vehicle, the Husky drives in front of convoys using pulse induction to detect metallic content buried underground. The system is extremely accurate in identifying the size of objects.

"We can actually track it down to where they can count nails in a board if they need to," said Lowdon.

Lowdon trained and supervised 4th BN combat engineers as they assembled two Huskies at KAF. Beginning May 3 the assembly process took several days, and after completion Lowdon conducted driver's training.

Because the Husky carries a single occupant, the driver is carefully chosen.

"You don't have the chatter you would have in a regular vehicle with a few or more soldiers in it. They're up front. They lead the way," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Brown, a squad leader in 4th BN. "So definitely they have to be mentally strong."

The Husky is designed to protect the driver in case of explosion.

"The majority of your injuries," said Lowdon. "If you do have a mine blast in these [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected] type vehicles, is usually due to roll-over as well as stuff and personnel flying around inside the vehicle."

The driver is buckled into the seat by a four-point safety harness. The seat itself places the driver's spine in an optimal position to minimize back injuries. The driver's rifle can be secured into a special mount.

"I've driven in this vehicle for quite a long time, said Pfc. Steven Warren, a combat engineer and Husky driver in 4th BN. "It's extremely safe. It's well put together. I feel totally confident in this vehicle that it will protect me and safeguard my life."

In April, the 4th BN was reassigned from Iraq to Afghanistan as part of the troop build-up. As more than 20,000 troops arrive over 2009, detecting roadside bombs will become an increasing importance. The 4th BN use of Huskies may prove integral to the lives of U.S. servicemembers and Coalition Forces.

Page last updated Wed May 27th, 2009 at 02:39