By Senior Airman Olufemi A. OwolabiSeptember 6, 2007
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Sept. 5, 2007 - Airmen from the 438th Air Expeditionary Group Aerial Port Flight from Al Asad Air Base helped deliver four new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Category III Buffalo vehicles to ground troops in and throughout Iraq, Aug. 28.
The new MRAPs, which are to phase out the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, are designed with a V-shaped and raised bottoms more than three feet off the ground to reduce servicemember casualties by protecting them from improvised explosive devices. The vehicles also increase mobility and enhance mission success.
With the rattling of chains and faces dripping with sweat, seven airmen teamed up with three Marines to strap two MRAPs into a C-17 Globemaster III, and then transported the vehicles throughout the area of responsibility.
"A C-17 could hold only two MRAP Category III Buffalo models, which weigh about 50,000 pounds each," said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Tague, an aerial porter from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. "This is the first time here we are loading these MRAPs into a C-17, and we are very proud to be part of this."
The Buffaloes drove so smooth, one would not know they are 50,000-pound vehicles, said Lt. Col. Gerard Couvillion, the 438th Expeditionary Support Squadron commander, who inspected the interior of the MRAP Buffalo and test drove one before aerial porters loaded them.
The team of aerial porters anticipated loading the MRAPs would take a long time, but in less than one hour they completed the process.
"It's a privilege for the 438th APF team to be part of this," Tague said, "knowing that when these 'monstrous-looking vehicles' are delivered to ground troops, they will help save lots of lives from (improvised explosive devices)."
The MRAP Buffalo vehicles, which cost between $600,000 and $1 million each, can help deflect explosions.
"Our aerial porters know they are saving lives every day because they execute their mission of loading and unloading MRAPs and other critical supplies and equipment with perfection," Couvillion said.