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Marine Corps air ground Combat Center (Feb. 24, 2006): saving lives with Marine Armor Kits at the Combat Center.

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- According to J.T Coleman from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., vehicle accidents, involving both tactical and non-tactical vehicles, are the leading cause of non-combat fatalities in Iraq as of May 18, 2004. Most result from excessive speed and not wearing seat belts, he said in an interview with Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.

Most accidents occurred during convoys in forward areas, with speed a factor in more than half of the accidents, and failure to use seat belts contributing to the severity of injuries in almost half of all humvee accidents, said Coleman.

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The Marine Corps connected the problem to pre-deployment training, said Kyle E. Garvin, motor transportation maintenance supervisor, Exercise Support Division.

"Motor vehicle accidents continue to kill Marines in Iraq and during training," said Garvin. "We believe it is due to the added load Marine Armor Kit that has been installed in all humvees in Iraq. Drivers are not training with that load during pre-deployment training, and when they get to Iraq they have to adjust to the added amount of weight from more armor on their vehicles."

The MAK is to help shield servicemembers in Iraq from the effects of improvised explosive devices and other ballistic battlefield dangers. Motor transportation mechanics and civilian contractors are now installing the MAK, and it is adaptable to both the two-door and four-door humvees. Components of the kit include reinforced doors with ballistic glass, flank protection kits, gunner shield kits, and an air-conditioning system. The kit adds 3,500 pounds to the humvee's original 7,210 pounds--roughly 50 percent more weight.

"The priority focus with the kit is to get as many as we can on the humvees we have here," said Garvin. "It is not the same vehicle any more, and the Marines need to experience that before they operate them in Iraq."

Along with its increased protection comes the increased force from the weight and velocity it carries. Marines in Iraq can be slow to discover that the stopping distance and following distance during convoy operations must be increased, added Garvin.

"The difference is big between the humvees without the kit and the humvees with the kit," said Cpl. Jose D. Solis, motor transportation operator with ESD. "Yes, the humvee looks like it can survive some blasts and AK-47 rounds, but it is harder to maneuver. You can feel how much heavier the vehicle is. Now, the driver has to take more precautions. The acceleration is slower and the stopping distance is larger. There's more weight behind the wheel that can cause twice the damage. Dismounting and mounting into the vehicle could also take a bit longer as well because the doors are heavier. I think it's very important to train with these vehicles now, rather than learn the difference in Iraq. Time is on the line out there, and that can mean lives. It's a better vehicle that can also be dangerous to Marines."

The Marines executing Mojave Viper aboard the Combat Center are beginning to get the chance to test out the MAK, said Garvin. ESD is making efforts to provide the vehicles with the kit to every unit that comes to train in the month-long, pre-deployment exercise.

Ten civilian contractors and 20 Marines from Marine Logistics Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., were tasked with helping the Enhanced Equipment Allowance Pool here in putting the MAK on more than 80 vehicles, said Garvin.

So far, the Combat Center has roughly 50 vehicles completed for exercise purposes, and training for better vehicle handling and safety is already underway, added Garvin.

"Taking these vehicles out on training evolutions and convoy operations will definitely cut down on motor vehicle accidents in Iraq," said Garvin. "The mission is to make drivers aware of the weight difference, and eventually, handling the vehicles will become second nature to them again."

Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes, USMC
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Author:Cifuentes, Michael S.
Publication:Defense AT & L
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:660
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