BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- The Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, fielded more than 150 new MaxxPro A4 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles throughout Afghanistan during early 2019.

The vehicles were primarily sourced from Army Prepositioned Stock-5, and are slated to replace older MaxxPro A3 MRAPs across the combined joint area of operation.

"We're seeing an overall uptick in combat readiness because the A4 variant vehicles are safer, they have a longer lifespan, and they're just simply better," said Lt. Col. John Lopes, commander, AFSBn-Afghanistan.

The newer MaxxPro A4 MRAPs have more durable armor and are fitted with outer layer stability kits that provide increased structural integrity of the vehicles.

Older MaxxPro A3 MRAPS that have reached the end of their lifespan are slated to be swapped out for the newer vehicles and scheduled for demilitarization, where they are stripped of usable parts and destroyed.

"The availability of parts is better for the A4 variants," Lopes said. "Additionally, before we demilitarize the older variants we strip all the compatible parts we can utilize and keep them.

"That makes a huge difference when we face challenges in the supply chain with parts that are hard to get," he said. "We're able to fix vehicles much quicker rather than wait for the parts to arrive."

Parts that are needed to maintain the new fleet of MRAPs are verified against open work-orders on the older vehicles to ensure compatibility and fully mission capable condition.

"We're able to use those parts in our decision making process," Lopes said. "Do we have parts in stock? Are they hard to get? Do we need more stock than we have? How many options do we have to pull those parts from? All of those things are pieces of the puzzle that we have to put together in order to get the best equipment into the hands of the warfighter."

As mission requirements change and newer versions of combat equipment platforms are fielded, the AFSBn-Afghanistan must constantly anticipate equipment needs and maximize distribution opportunities.

"When you look at the landscape of Afghanistan and you look at the tyranny of distance that we have in getting parts from the states delivered to us half way across the globe, it requires anticipatory planning and it's a team sport," Lopes said. "Nothing that our battalion does here is done totally by ourselves. We have to work well with our partners across the theater to get equipment where it's needed most."

The new MaxxPro A4 MRAPs arrive in Afghanistan at the Logistics Task Force-Bagram Air Field (LTF BAF) as blank slates with no additional protective equipment, communication equipment, or Soldier technologies installed.

"When the vehicle arrives from APS-5 is goes through our racetrack," said Capt. Lety Richards, LTF BAF officer in charge, AFSBn-Afghanistan.

"The racetrack entails inspecting the vehicle upon arrival, and then going to maintenance if any faults have been identified, then configuring the vehicle for the unit that will receive it," she said.

The "racetrack" is designed to convert a vehicle from a blank slate to fully mission capable and combat configured in seven days.

Different locations and units have different equipment requirements and restrictions, so vehicles are configured differently depending on what area they are going to and what unit is going to use them.

"We have teams of subject matter experts for every piece of communication equipment and every additional Solder technology that might end up in a vehicle," Richards said. "Repairs, software updates, and installations -- we work with the experts for this equipment to deliver vehicles that are fully configured and ready."

Operational readiness rates in the areas where the first MaxxPro A4 MRAPs were fielded have already trended upward from as low as 70 percent to now a sustainable 90 percent or higher.

"We need to keep the momentum going. Soldiers are depending on this equipment, so we can't slow down," Richards said. "We always want to provide the best equipment and keep our Soldiers safe. The A4 trucks can take more of a beating and withstand a lot more stress in this rough terrain, plain and simple."