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Monday, July 30, 2007

New Vehicles Support Mission in Anbar

23 July 07
By Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard
Regimental Combat Team 6
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CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — Marines with Regimental Combat Team 6 recently got their hands on the Marine Corps’ newest counter to attacks by terrorist forces in Anbar Province. The Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, is the latest melding of technology and combat firepower to find its way onto the battlefield in Iraq. Like any new weapon fielded to Marines, instructors are needed to certify potential operators in its use

One of the JERRV operator instructors for the regiment is Cpl. Miarco T. McMillian, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters Company. He is one of a handful of instructors responsible for training the Marines who will be driving the trucks on combat and logistics patrols throughout Al Anbar Province.

The JERRV is one type of vehicle in the category of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs. It’s the usual alphabet soup of military acronyms that all boils down to one thing: protecting Marines in combat. Unlike the Humvee, the current workhorse of the American vehicle fleet, the JERRV chassis was designed with heavy bomb-proof armor in mind.

“There’s a higher sense of security with brand new vehicles. They’re designed to carry the weight of the armor,” said McMillian, a Las Vegas native and 1998 graduate of Meadows High School. “(The JERRVs) are 40,000 pounds but they can go up to 52,000 pounds with extra modifications. Being surrounded by all that armor makes you feel safe.”

Gunnery Sgt. Matthew A. Larson, the motor transportation maintenance chief for RCT-6, echoed McMillian’s sentiment. “They're like no other vehicle I have ever driven,” Larson said. “They are like riding in a bank-vault with wheels. You can't help but feel safer in the JERRV than in an armored Humvee. These vehicles will definitely save lives.”

Larson said the process of training Marines on the JERRV will be a “continuous process. The intent is for RCT-6 instructors to train instructors in all of the subordinate units, while simultaneously teaching all potential operators in the RCT headquarters,” said Larson, a Hubert, N.C., native. “When all is said and done, we should have in the ball park of 700 or so Marines trained to operate the MRAPs.”

RCT-6 will need every one of those operators to man the fleet of vehicles it is slated to receive. Around 500 MRAPs, including the JERRV and other variants, will make an immediate impact on the mission in Anbar Province, according to Capt. Russell W. Wilson, the motor transportation officer for RCT-6.

“The MRAP will go a long way in the IED force protection of our Marines, sailors and soldiers; however, this added protection comes with a price. The price is reduced visibility, maneuverability, off road capability … and (experienced operators),” he said. “That is where training becomes critical to the success of the vehicle and the adaptation to accomplish the mission.”

McMillian said his first experience with the JERRV was something any civilian can identify with.“It smells like a brand new car. It’s got that nice, plastic, clean car smell,” said McMillian. “There’s nothing else like it in the world.” More important than the smell, McMillian said, is how the 20-ton, six-wheeled behemoth handles.

“Surprisingly, it handles very well. It’s a lot more nimble than you would expect from a 20-ton vehicle. Its turning radius is amazing, and its versatility and terrain capability is way up there,” he said.

A versatile vehicle requires a versatile operator. This is the value in having Marines like McMillian in the instructor seat, said Wilson.

“The Marine Corps is one of the only places in the world where a corporal, with relatively minimal training, teaching, and public speaking experience, can get out there and teach all ranks and grades with confidence and professionalism,” he said. “With the training of Cpl. McMillian and the cadre of instructors like him, we aim to safely and rapidly field the MRAP for convoy security and give Marines a better fighting chance against the tactics of the enemy.”

Photo - Marine Cpl. Miarco T. McMillian is a certification instructor for the new Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, with Regimental Combat Team 6. The JERRV, pictured behind McMillian, is the newest addition to the Corps' arsenal to combat the threat from roadside bombs. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard.

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