FORT LEE, Va. (April 29, 2010) – Soldiers from the 101st Sustainment Brigade, Fort Campbell, Ky., participated in an operational test of the Joint Recovery and Distribution System, or JRaDS, 40T Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle recovery and evacuation trailer last week.

Military leaders from several major Army commands – to include the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee and the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. – took great interest in the Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration. If successful, the $30.4 million JRaDS program could result in faster vehicle recovery times, which reduces the risk to troops when operating in a hostile environment.

The new trailer uses a hydraulic tilt bed system and two powerful winches to recover heavy wheeled vehicles, according to Bryan Kriehn, field service engineer and lead trainer for the Boeing Corporation that built the trailer. “The heart of the system is the auxiliary power unit,” he said. “The engine can provide 110 volts of electricity and run the hydraulics for all the trailer’s operations.”

“The JRaDS 40T trailer provides catastrophic recovery and evacuation from light to heavy tactical wheeled vehicles up to a 40 ton payload,” said Lt. Col. Keith Nowlin, deputy operational manager, Combined Arms Support Command.

Nowlin said some of the features of the JRaDS include its ability to load vehicles with missing axles and right overturned vehicles with its two, 50,000-pound winches.

“The JRaDS 40T trailer also accommodates a modular crane that can lift up to 8,000 lbs. It can be used to recover vehicle parts [axles, tires, engines] that may have been separated by roadside bombs, for example,” Nowlin said.

“I’m used to a lifting crane,” said Spc. Jon Anderson, a 101st Soldier who participated in the demonstration. “This one will take some getting used to (because it’s a fixed hook system instead of a winch device).”

Anderson also said that the tailgate and suspension were great and would make vehicle recovery easier.

Col. Michael Peterman, 101st Sustainment Brigade commander, said he is fully aware that many of the Soldiers in his unit have more combat experience than their predecessors.

The constant deploying and redeploying into hostile environments has not only made them battle-hardened, but also has sharpened their problem-solving and “thinking-outside-the-box” skills.

To that end, looking for equipment that provides his Soldiers the best means to successfully complete their mission is high on his priority list. The recent JRaDS demonstration provided the colonel with insight into how to recover damaged vehicles like an MRAP in harsh, unforgiving terrain like Afghanistan.

“We’re here to solve capability gaps,” said Nowlin.

Approximately 14 Soldiers from the 101st took part in the two-week training iteration designed to introduce them to the equipment. Each of the four flatbed trailers positioned around Training Area 34 had a specific use, ranging from vehicle recovery, self-loading and off-loading. The Soldiers were given recovery scenarios and had to put their training into action.

The combat experience proved just as essential to the training, as Soldiers who’ve been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan used their real-world experience. Because the JRADS are prototypes, there were areas that needed improvement.

“The training has been effective, and the trailer has its high points and low points,” said Sgt. Eddie High, a squad leader with the 584th Maintenance, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

“Whatever is being used in Afghanistan is not working, so they’re trying to come up with something different. This is their best idea, and it’s not bad, but it needs a couple of more tweaks before it can actually go to combat.”

The next stop for the JRaDS is Fort Lee where its capabilities will be demonstrated for Department of Defense officials.