Training vehicle for Fort Jackson
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

At more than 8 feet tall and weighing more than 33,000 pounds, Fort Jackson's newest addition definitely leaves an impression.

But last week, approximately 20 Soldiers, Sailors and civilians faced the massive Iraqi Light Armored Vehicle as part of a training class aimed at protecting deployed military personnel against Improvised Explosive Devices.

For three days, the hand-picked military and civilian personnel learned the ins and outs of the vehicle during a "Train the Trainer" session.

Last week's training is the first time the ILAV has come to Fort Jackson, which is one of only a handful of military installations that has started training on it.

"Fort Jackson is one of the first to get them," said Navy Capt. James McGinley with McCrady Training Center's Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center. "We're getting 14 of these babies."

This is the largest number of ILAVs sent to any installation so far.

The ILAV is the Iraqi version of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, which is used to provide protection against IEDs. It was designed as a less expensive version of the MRAP that is made specifically for the Iraqi government, said McGinley.

Because the vehicle does not meet DoD standards in the amount of armor and explosive protection it provides, U.S. military personnel are allowed to use it for training purposes only.

It is the more affordable price that makes the ILAV a perfect substitution for stateside training, said Mike Trzeciak from Aberdeen Proving Ground. Trzeciak leads a team of four who travels the country to provide training on the vehicles.

"These people are the experts on these vehicles right now," McGinley said to the group, referring to Trzeciak's team. "You're going to become the experts."

To help in this training, the Joint IED Defeat Organization has provided funding that will send these and similar vehicles to military installations throughout the country. Though the vehicles are on Fort Jackson, they actually belong to the Navy. However, as part of its Home Station Training Lane, they are available to use to train Soldiers, as well as Sailors.

"These ILAVs are an integral part of the HSTL concept," said McGinley. "We're all working together here to try to train our Sailors and Soldiers against counter IED attacks."

Prior to the JIEDDO-funded training, MRAP operators did not receive specific training for the vehicles. This lack of training resulted in better safety against IED threats, but left untrained drivers more likely to have rollovers and other accidents.

"There have probably been more deaths in rollovers than IEDs, and that's why this training is so crucial," Trzeciak said.

Surprisingly, the easy drivability of the vehicle can also cause problems.

"It just seems like you jumped in your car and started driving, but it's not," Trzeciak said. "You have to remember it's a military vehicle."

The senior noncommissioned officers who attended last week's training received both classroom and hands-on instruction on the vehicles. They stocked the vehicle's storage areas with supplies, conducted preventive maintenance checks and even took the vehicles for a spin. Though attending the class meant having to work in during a rare Columbia snowfall and freezing temperatures, last week's class will play an integral part in the NCOs' training of young Soldiers and Sailors.

The purpose of the class, said Trzeciak, was to expose the future trainers to the positive and negatives of the ILAV to better teach those who will have to use it in war.

"This vehicle is designed to save a life, not to take a bomb hit and keep on moving," he said. "The point is, this vehicle is close to the real thing. The real ones have the same problems, but they save lives."