JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Vehicle rollovers remain a serious concern for units deployed overseas. According to statistics compiled by U.S. Central Command, there were 618 tactical vehicle rollovers in Afghanistan between January 2009 and July 2012, resulting in 23 fatalities and 501 injuries.
As the validation authority for all Reserve component Soldiers deploying around the world, First Army leaders decided to tackle this problem. First Army received feedback from CENTCOM that service members needed additional driver training before deploying. Now, service members mobilizing through Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst must complete an improved, comprehensive MRAP driver training program, including additional time behind the wheel and a newly created obstacle course.
First Army Division East leaders at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst designed the program to increase driver proficiency and promote safety while reducing injuries and loss of life. The five-day training replaces a three-day model that focused on instruction and familiarization of the M-ATV and MaxxPro, two common MRAP vehicles. Students going through the new training still receive classroom instruction and basic vehicle familiarization, but now they spend more time behind the wheel and have to negotiate an obstacle course in both daytime and nighttime.
The obstacle course features an array of terrain features a deploying service member might encounter overseas, including concrete barrier serpentines, potholes large enough to swallow a tire, narrow passages between shipping containers to simulate an urban environment, uneven slopes and steep inclines. Students also drive their vehicles through a smoke-filled trail to simulate a battlefield obscurant and face high curbs and an 18-inch vertical wall.
Service members who have experienced the new training have noted the promotion of safety and overall trust in the vehicle after operating the MRAP through the obstacle course. Under the watchful eye of a master driver, speed and safety are carefully controlled as students negotiate the course. The master drivers ride in the vehicles and provide instant feedback to students on their performance. First Army leadership not only focuses on terrain features, they also ensure communication within the vehicle is a priority, allowing the master drivers to stress the importance of communication while driving.
The planning and development of the obstacle course and the improved training model was a joint effort among representatives from First Army, as well as the installation safety office and range control. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst contractors began construction in June 2012, and the obstacle course was validated by the master drivers of the 174th Training Brigade in July. The first group of student drivers navigated the obstacles in August. Upon completion of the five days, students receive a certificate to verify they have met the training requirements. Unit commanders are responsible for issuance of driver's licenses, per Army Regulation 600-55.
The take-away from the training? Instructors say the training produces confident drivers armed with the necessary skills to safely operate the vehicle over unfamiliar terrain in a combat environment.
If you're looking for materials to set up, maintain or improve your unit's driver training program and ensure the safety of your Soldiers and equipment, check out the Driver's Training Toolbox. The toolbox is a repository of driver training resources aimed to assist leaders, commanders, master drivers and instructors.
The toolbox offers a myriad of tools and resources that reinforce the sound principles of driving. Whether deployed or in garrison, personnel can easily access sample standard operating procedures, presentations, lesson plans, graphic training aids, handbooks, videos and more. Use of these resources will assist Soldiers in the successful and safe completion of their missions and off-duty activities while mitigating the harmful effects of operating Army motor vehicles or Army combat vehicles.
Another component of the toolbox is the MRAP Safety Awareness Site that contains hazard and risk mitigation information and tools to supplement operator and crew training programs. Users have access to an MRAP safety awareness video, a training support package with a slide presentation and additional safety information. Equipment operator training guides are the newest additions to the toolbox.