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Blast-resistant vehicles finding favor among Marines in Iraq

29 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Gunnery Sgt. Paul L. Jones knows firsthand the damage improvised explosive devices can cause to personnel and vehicles alike.

Jones, motor transportation chief with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, said the battalion has already lost too many Marines and quite a few vehicles because of the homemade explosives set up by anti-Iraqi fighters.

Razor-sharp shrapnel and other debris from IEDs can slice through the bodies of standard humvees, killing or maiming passengers and causing severe damage to the vehicles' working parts.

The battalion recently received two variants of "uparmored humvees" to reduce the number of casualties caused by enemy attacks against convoys.

"Right now the battalion has seventeen 1116 uparmored humvees and ten M-114 heavy variant humvees," explained Jones, of Petersburg, Va. "They're divided up between the battalion's companies."

He said there's no remarkable difference between the two vehicles except the 1116 can carry more gear than the M-1114. Each humvee is designed to carry five passengers.

Jones and his shop chief, Sgt. Jay C. Ashland, have been pleased with the performances of each type of humvee, which originally belonged to the U.S. Army and Air Force.

"These things are covered in armor. The doors, the under panels and the side panels are all protected by thick steel," Ashland said. "The windows are made of glass that's almost four inches thick."

He said the armor and glass are capable of withstanding IED blasts and repelling a variety of ammunition.

"A couple of the vehicles have been hit by IEDs," Ashland added. "They didn't receive any real damage, just some paint chipping."

Each type of uparmored humvee weighs more than six tons, outweighing the commonly-used standard variant humvee by more than 4,000 pounds.

Ashland explained the humvees were built with larger, turbo charged engines to compensate for the vehicles' bulkiness.

"These things are so heavy that they needed a little something to give them that extra push," explained the Stevens Point, Wis.

That extra boost can get the vehicles moving 60 miles per hour, and Jones said on long stretches, that speed could get higher.

Some of the battalion's 1116 uparmored humvees came equipped with state-of-the-art global positioning systems and the Blue Force Tracker.

"The tracker is used for monitoring the vehicle's exact location while it's outside the camp," Jones said. "Higher headquarters can keep an eye on where the humvees are operating. They know the exact grid coordinates."

Jones said he hopes to eventually install the communications equipment in all of the battalion's trucks.

Still, a favorite feature of the new vehicles for many of the battalion's Marines is the air conditioning unit.

"The AC keeps all the vehicles parts cool so in doesn't overheat," explained Lance Cpl. Philip E. Thuman, motor transport operator with Company G.

Although the vehicles have a few more amenities than standard humvees, the 1116 and M-1114 do have drawbacks.

"With all the communications equipment and the AC unit that take up so much space, they're not very comfortable to ride in," added Thuman, of Earlville, Iowa. "It's a tight fit for the Marines."

He said the ride may not be comfortable, but he still feels safer inside the new trucks than inside regular humvees.

"These things are more protected from IEDs," he said. "I'd really rather be safer than comfortable."

According the Jones, the battalion is slated to receive more vehicles in the coming months.