CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq (Army News Service, Nov. 6, 2007) - Towering overhead and aligned one after the other in a seemingly endless row, the Army's next generation of combat vehicles have rolled into Iraq.

The new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle is currently being fielded here for the first time anywhere, and Soldiers are getting their first hands-on look at the latest development in troop protection.

"I'm really impressed by the vehicle, mainly because of the height, and the fact that it can drive about 20 to 30 degrees on its side without rolling over," said Spc. Marquis Dawkins, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "It is also much more comfortable. The makers of the MRAP were definitely thinking about the Soldiers."

The MRAPs come in two categories. Category one holds up to six Soldiers and will replace the Humvee. Category two is a longer version, which can hold a crew of 10 Soldiers. Both vehicles, although different, bring the same ideas of troop protection to the fight.

"The vehicle has an angled bottom shell on it so it can deflect blasts a lot," said Pfc. Nicholas Lane, Company C, 2nd Bn., 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. "Hopefully, it will keep us safer out there."

Prior to the vehicles being handed over to the units for day-to-day use, the Soldiers are given extensive training on how to operate, drive and maintain the vehicles. This training also introduces Soldiers to some new luxuries the Humvee lacked, like pneumatic doors and suspended seats.

"Throughout this week we are learning how to work on the trucks, and we're learning how to drive them," said Pfc. Lane. "This is the first course, and the vehicles are still new so we're just taking it step-by-step."

This training not only familiarizes the Soldiers with the vehicles, but gives them confidence in the MRAPs, as well, by giving Soldiers the opportunity to drive the vehicles over steep hills and through tight turns.

"I feel blessed," Spc. Dawkins said. "Knowing the capabilities of the MRAP gives me reassurance that even though I have a few more months here in Baghdad that I have a much better chance of getting home to my family."

The MRAPs were designed to be both safe and effective for Soldiers conducting patrols, convoy security and missions throughout Iraq. As more trucks arrive in theater these trucks should play a vital role in providing security and stability to the people of Iraq.

The MRAPs are currently being fielded to units who need them the most and operate in areas with the highest threat, officials said. Although the Humvee is not expected to be phased out anytime soon, the MRAPs will begin to take its place as a new standard Army vehicle.

(Sgt. Mark B. Matthews serves with the 27th Public Affairs Detachment.)