By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 17, 2007 - U.S. troops serving in Iraq will have a little more protection soon, as two of the military's newest armored vehicles are on their way to the theater. Two Buffalo Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, known as "MRAPs," were loaded onto C-5 Galaxy aircraft last night at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., to be shipped to Iraq. This latest shipment is part of the Defense Department's push to get as many of the new vehicles to troops in combat as quickly as possible.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been pushing the production and delivery of MRAPs, which boast a V-shaped hull that deflects bomb blasts and protects troops inside better than the military's current vehicles. The Defense Department awarded two more contracts for the vehicles the week of Aug. 10, which brings the number of vehicles on contract to 6,415. An estimated 3,500 MRAPs are expected to be shipped to Iraq by Dec. 31.
The MRAPs are shipped to Iraq by the 437th Airlift Wing, out of Charleston. The vehicles are part of the 300 tons of cargo the unit moves on a daily basis. It typically takes two days to airlift the MRAPs to Iraq, said Cynthia Bauer, a public affairs officer with U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees the movement of the vehicles. A small number of MRAPs are taken by sea, which takes between 22 and 30 days, she said.
As of Aug. 9, Transportation Command has shipped 701 MRAPs and MRAP-like vehicles to the Central Command area, Bauer said. The command will continue to ship the vehicles as the military commanders in theater request them, she said.
MRAPs come in three categories: Category I vehicles are designed for urban combat operations and can transport six people; Category II vehicles have multi-mission capabilities, including convoy lead, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering, and can transport up to 10 people; Category III vehicles perform mine and improvised-explosive-device clearance operations and explosive ordnance disposal and can transport six people, or five with additional equipment. The Buffalos that were shipped last night fall under Category III.
The troops who participated in loading the vehicles yesterday told local media that they feel their job is important, because the MRAPs have been proven to save lives in combat. "It's absolutely critical. It saves lives every day when they have them," Air Force Master Sgt. Jared Breyer, with the 437th Airlift Wing, told ABC News.