By Spc. Steven Bryant, 214th Fires BrigadeJanuary 30, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- As the last troops left Iraq in December, Fort Sill's 214th Fires Brigade received deployment orders to aid efforts in Afghanistan.
About 130 Soldiers from the brigade have already begun extensive training for their upcoming deployment. New vehicles and tactical lessons that these Soldiers will use reflect lessons learned during 10 years of conflict in the Middle East region. The 214th Fires Brigade's seasoned leadership will be tasked to train the Afghan National Security Forces, allowing that nation to rely more on its own resources and less on the U.S. military.
The new vehicles are called Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicles, but some are called MaxxPros, referring to their particular model type. They are replacing the Army's previous standard troop carrier, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, commonly referred to as the Humvee, off of which is based the popular Hummer sport utility vehicle.
The design of the heavily armored MRAPs provides increased protection against one of the biggest threats in Afghanistan -- improvised explosive devices. IEDs are explosives that detonate underneath vehicles, causing massive damage to the vehicle and the troops inside. The MRAP's V-shaped under armor is designed to dissipate the explosive force, greatly reducing its damaging effects.
The Army realized that the MRAP's armor reduces mobility, speed and economy. So they developed a modified version, the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle or M-ATV that is also being used. The M-ATVs are lighter and faster due to improved suspension and armor placement while still providing as much protection as the traditional MRAP.
"The MRAP is bigger and harder to turn than the M-ATV," said Capt. Marquay Edmondson. "The M-ATV is easier to handle and rides like a Cadillac."
Following classroom instruction on the new vehicle specs, what to expect when driving in Afghanistan, and mission briefings, deploying Soldiers headed out for some hands-on driving.The seven-mile long training route gave them a feel for how the new vehicles handled, their capabilities and closed the gap between classroom theory and real-world application.
"I felt more confident after driving them," said 2nd Lt. Andrew Simonsen.