JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - The Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle is used by many 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers during convoy operations in Iraq today.

When Soldiers are properly trained to operate the vehicle, it can serve as a strong asset to units throughout Iraq. However, if the MRAP drivers are not properly trained it could result in damage to the vehicle, injury or death.

"First and foremost these requirements are given to ensure the Soldier's safety," said Jason C. Irvin, a native of Hughes Springs, Texas, and senior instructor of the MRAP driver's course. "If we give them the best training possible, then they will become the best Soldiers."

Drivers must have a civilian driver's license and complete a 40-hour four-day equipment training course that includes lessons on how to operate common components in MRAPs, how to drive the vehicle and roll-over training.

"It's just as important for Soldiers to know how to maintain MRAPs as it is for them to know how to drive them safely," said Herb Brotherwood, a native of Copperas Cove, Texas, and the site leader for Regional Support Activity Balad, an MRAP site that helps oversee the Soldier's training.

Training begins in a classroom atmosphere. Soldiers are taught to identify the components of an MRAP and become familiarized with the specific parts and functions of the vehicle. Soldiers are taught how to perform a proper maintenance check and services on the MRAP.
Brotherwood said it is very important for Soldiers to remember what type of vehicle they are driving because no matter how easy the vehicle is to steer, it's important to always keep the training in mind.

"Although it's an extremely heavy vehicle, it can be misleading because it's fairly easy to drive and operate," Brotherwood said. "Soldiers tend to forget what they are driving and start driving too fast. That's when the chance of a roll-over increases."

During the training, Soldiers are required to drive 75 miles during the day and drive 50 miles at night using night vision devices. Soldiers also drive on unimproved and improved terrain to ensure they are prepared for the different roads in Iraq, said Maj. Thomas J. Harzewski, a native of Pecos, N.M., and the force modernization chief for the 3d ESC.

"Everything we do in our training is to help prepare Soldiers for what they might face on the road," Brotherwood said. "We put the most emphasis on safety because these vehicles have precious cargo and we want our Soldiers to complete every mission safely."

Harzewski said although the Soldiers are given training to avoid roll-overs, they are also trained how to respond to them.

Brotherwood said one of the main causes for roll-overs is the speed Soldiers are traveling at when they make turns.

"These vehicles can weigh up to seventy thousand pounds, that's almost the weight of an 18-wheeler back home, and it's very different from driving some of the smaller cars Soldiers are used to driving," Brotherwood said.

"Our mission," Irvin said, "is to teach Soldiers the skill set and knowledge to safely return from their missions."

Story by Spc. Kelly Anne Beck