FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 2, 2012) -- One of the vehicles responsible for saving hundreds of U.S. lives and changing the face of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has made its way to Fort Lee.
The MaxxPro, a member of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected family of vehicles that cut U.S. deaths in half by some estimates, is now the subject of instruction at the Ordnance School based here.
It joins the Humvee, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and others that are part of the instruction in the 12-week Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic advanced individual training course taught at the school.
"These are the Army's next generation of vehicles" said Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Bezdek, module chief, 91B course. "And it is a critical piece of equipment. There are a lot of moving parts to it, and there's a lot of sensitive equipment inside. In addition, it can carry a whole squad, so you're going to have a squad of people depending on the reliability of that vehicle."
MRAP training at the schoolhouse level began last August at the Ordnance School's Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic School located in Fort Jackson, S.C. The Fort Lee training began Jan. 26. Prior to its schoolhouse introduction, MRAP training across the Army took place on-site at the unit level, said Elisha Morris, course manager, Basic Wheel Maintenance Division, Wheeled Maintenance Training Department, Ordnance School.
The MaxxPro, which can weigh in excess of 14 tons, can carry three - seven personnel. Its heavily-armored body features a v-shape design that deflects fragmentation away from the vehicle. It has a track record of surviving many explosions.
Since 2004, U.S. deaths as a result of improvised explosive devices have been reduced by 90 percent, largely due to the MRAPs. The vehicles forced the enemy to change its tactics, said a 2008 story in the Washington Post newspaper.
The Ordnance School currently has seven MRAPs on hand. They are located at Stever Hall where the training includes classroom familiarization and several hands-on sessions.
On Jan. 26, about 40 Soldiers separated into teams of three and took turns removing parts within the steering columns and suspension system. Frederick Butler, a course instructor, was one of several instructors roaming the floor as students went about completing their tasks.
"This training is good for the Soldiers," he said. "It's something they haven't had the opportunity to do before, and we believe these are some of the critical tasks Soldiers will need to know before they arrive at the permanent duty stations."
Any training would suffice for Pfc. Taylor Bell, a student taking the course. Bell, like many others, heard about the MRAPs through the media but didn't expect the training would be included while his class was in session.
"I knew the MRAP was a new vehicle they were putting in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the IEDs being the No.1 killer of Soldiers," he said. "When they told us that we're going to work on the MaxxPros, I was like ‘sweet.' I love these trucks. If I could buy one for my personal use, I would."
The MRAP has many more fans. They include former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who praised it during a visit to an MRAP factory in 2010.
"There isn't a trip I've taken into (Iraq and Afghanistan])where some young Soldier or Marine won't say to me, ‘keep those MRAPs coming,'" he said to factory workers. "They save our lives. (MRAPs) saved countless lives, and believe me, there's not anyone on the ground over there who understands the threat and doesn't know that's exactly the case."
The Ordnance School moved the Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic course to Fort Lee from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., as a result of the last round of Base Realignment and Closure mandates. The course taught at the Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic School at Fort Jackson. will eventually be integrated with the course here, said Morris.