FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHINDAND, Afghanistan -- After nearly five months of running 24-7 operations, Product Manager Heavy Tactical Vehicles, in partnership with 401st Army Field Support Brigade, installed the last of 150 underbody blast protection kits in early September into Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks at Forward Operating Base Shindand.

The 11-ton, eight-wheel-drive family of vehicles, considered to be the backbone of the U.S. Army logistics fleet, received the upgrades to mitigate the impact of improvised explosive devices, which are increasing as U.S. forces prepare to drawdown in Afghanistan.

The underbody blast protection kits, also known as C-Kits, consists of two-inch thick plates made from the ballistic temper of alloy 7085 shaped to fit the front and sides of the truck cabin.

The installation takes approximately three days, per vehicle, with a team of three mechanics working around the clock.

"From the time units turn in their trucks, it takes three-and-a-half days for the entire upgrade process," said Dale Click, the AC First site supervisor who oversaw the C-Kit installation at Camp Phoenix. "The three-day training my mechanics received on how to install the underbody blast protection kits from the Product Manager Heavy Tactical Vehicles representatives was invaluable."

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ricky Acord, a maintenance officer from 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade who oversaw the installation of the C-Kits into his brigade's Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, or HEMTT, fleet, believes the upgrades are invaluable and well worth the required manpower.

"I cannot speak directly as to how the upgrades truly work, but if it saves one life, one leg, one arm or even just one finger, then the upgrades are priceless," said Acord. "We owe it to each and every one of America's men and women who willingly protect and serve our nation to do everything possible to ensure they return home to their families."

Col. Mark A. Paget, commander of the 401st AFSB, says that the brigade was able to collaboratively work with Product Manager Heavy Tactical Vehicles to complete the mission ahead of schedule.

"As the war in Afghanistan draws down, our commitment to keep the warfighter safe on the battlefield remains a priority," said Paget. "Therefore, we made every effort to accommodate units by performing the C-Kit upgrades at 10 Forward Operating Bases to ensure it was as convenient as possible for units to turn in and pick up completed vehicles."

"It's especially rewarding to be part of a team; a team working together and accomplishing our mission ahead of schedule in support of the warfighter," he added. "These survivability upgrades are yet another example of the synchronized efforts of Army Materiel Command and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology in Afghanistan."

The 401st AFSB executes, directs and manages field and sustainment level logistics for U.S. and selected coalition forces in Afghanistan. They serve as the single-entry point for integration and synchronization for acquisition, logistics and technology between the tactical and the materiel enterprise.

The brigade is one of seven in the U.S. Army Sustainment Command headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. ASC supports Army and joint forces in support of the combat commanders around the world.