FORT POLK, La. -- The Army has a new armor strategy for protecting Soldiers and 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division became the first unit fielded with these new up-armored vehicles June 16.

Long-Term Armor Strategy, LTAS, is the new up-armored variant in the Army's Family of medium tactical vehicles, FMTV, said 1st Lt. Darrell Lyles, commander, Forward Support Company E, 94th Brigade Support Battalion.

Primarily, LTAS vehicles are used for combat logistics patrols or re-supply missions, and 94th BSB received 13 LTAS FMTV trucks and 11 trailers, he said.
"I think it is a great step. The Army is definitely looking at the safety of Soldiers as a whole," said Lyles. "I think my distro (distribution) guys are very appreciative and they are taking a lot of pride in the fact that we are getting some of the new technology out there."

The Army has made safety improvements, including upgrades to cab windows and the armor itself, said Lyles. "Any safety upgrade is a ... boost of confidence in Soldiers' abilities to do missions and, in the end, leads to better longevity for Soldiers mission success."

Gary Livingston, of the Project Office for Medium Tactical Vehicles, said the Office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff and Forces Command designated 4th BCT as the first Army brigade to receive LTAS upgraded vehicles. Many factors affected their decision in selecting the Patriot Brigade to receive the LTAS' first fielding, including the brigade having recently redeploying from Iraq.

Many of the Patriot Brigade's left-behind vehicles when the unit deployed were up-armored then sent to theater, commented Livingston. "So the unit comes back, they need trucks and we are here to provide them some trucks," he said.

"These trucks, I am sure they are going to really support accomplishing (4th BCT's) mission," said Livingston. "They are great vehicles. We get good feedback from the field on these (trucks), so we will continue to march, developing future trucks to field to the units. They are the best vehicles in the world. We hear nothing but good things on our FMTVs."

Lt. Col. Anthony Coston, commander of 94th BSB, said Soldiers anywhere can be selected to receive new equipment. But when they are equipped with what they "need to go to war," they should take a lot of pride in ownership, he said.

"We are excited that we got the first opportunity to draw them (LTAS FMTVs) and start testing and using them," said Coston. "(It's important) that Soldiers can own their equipment, put their names in the windshield, take pride and 'armorall' the tires. You never wash a rental truck, so you like to take ownership when you get it. They are excited to do that."

Coston referred to the FMTVs as his unit's workhorse. And as the brigade support battalion, 94th BSB supports 3,500 Soldiers from 4th BCT.

"This is the workhorse of what we do, trucks, for transporting supplies, equipment, personnel, rations, food, ammunition, water; everything that the brigade needs to be sustained in combat, we deliver," explained Coston. "These vehicles are the ones that do a lot of the heavy lifting for us."

Tracy Reno, systems manager for Theater Army Command's Materiel Fielding Team, said the LTAS new generation of FMTVs is an upgrade from what they have been producing since the 1990s. Vehicles have been getting better and better, and with the wars on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, TACOM has had a need to up-grade its armor systems to keep Soldiers safe, he said.

Army up-armored vehicle improvements have gone from an initial bolt-on rack armor system to light signature armored cabs and now the new generation of the LTAS, said Reno.
"With these variants of vehicles ... they come partially armored, and then we are able to just adapt and put a B-kit armored system on them," explained Reno. "That will meet the requirements that we are trying to give our Soldiers for protection over there."

Improvements in LTAS vehicles include going from an air-over hydraulic system to an electrical system which helps distribute some of the load when raising and lowering the cab, a different suspension system, the armor and air conditioning.

"One of the biggest things that we have had, especially with Fort Polk weather and with Iraq and Afghanistan weather, is we finally put an air conditioning system in the trucks," commented Reno. "And that seems to be one of the Soldiers' favorite (upgrades)."
"We increasingly tried in every production year to make the truck a better variant for the Soldiers," Reno continued.
"It is all based on their feedback from the field."

Reno said the bottom line in fielding improved vehicles such as LTAS FMTV is trying to give Soldiers a product that enables them to conduct missions without worrying about anything else. It seems to be working, he said.

"As we have learned how our battles have changed -- from how we fight, where we fight and when we fight -- we have made a transformation from the jungles of Vietnam to the urban cities of Iraq and the mountainous terrains of Afghanistan," commented Reno. "So we are always looking at having to find that median of best performance for the buck, if you will. We continually strive to give the Soldiers that vehicle they need to accomplish their mission, and it is an ever-changing process."