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Feature Stories

NEWS | Feb. 7, 2020

Drive on Soldier, Soldier drive on

By Story by Sgt. 1st Class SHAIYLA HAKEEM Area Support Group - Jordan

What is a vehicle that towers more than 9 feet, is used as a troop carrier and can substantially withstand explosive detonations?

It is called a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Wheeled Armored Vehicle. In-depth training on this vehicle was orchestrated by members of the Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), with 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), Arizona Army National Guard (AZANG), through a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in January.

MRAPs belong to a family of tactical vehicles that are ballistic, and blast protected, designed to repel the force of ambushes and improvised explosive devices. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, MRAPs have, “…proved to be twice as effective in safeguarding passengers as M1 Abrams tanks and [are] more than three times as effective as the armoured Humvees.” The massive weight of these vehicles, without add-on armored protection, is upward 34,000 pounds. Driving and manipulating approximately 17 short tons can have its advantages, as well as its disadvantages.

“As we move up the ranks, we must know the capabilities of the vehicles; the strengths, the constraints and the limitations,” explained U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Elvis Sierra, “Unimproved roads, night driving, uphill, downhill, and night vision driving are part of the [SMEE] training to enhance safety, awareness and poise.”

Sierra, assigned to MET-J, 158 MEB, AZNG, has been in military for the past 18 years as served as the primary instructor for the exchange. He has background and knowledge as a vehicle transportation operator, a unit master driver and operating on various MRAP platforms. Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose, this includes being able to safely transport personnel through potentially high-risk areas.

During the week-long SMEE, the Soldiers trained and practiced operating the MRAPs in an array of conditions; the day, at night, during the rain and in complete blackout conditions utilizing night vision goggles [NVGs]. This facilitated an ever-changing environment for them to personally understand how the time of day and weather conditions can potentially affect mission capabilities by providing concealment, or in contrast, making routes more difficult to maneuver.

“We must understand the difference in driving times to maintain situational awareness of the interior controls as well as the exterior roads,” said Sierra, “The night driving then prepares you for no light or NVG driving.”

MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within U.S. Army Central in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships. Sierra said he was honored to be a working part of the exchange and, “The JAF welcomed us and not only treated us as guests in their country, but also maintained professionalism and positive interaction throughout the exchange.”

Checking in on the training periodically each day was JAF Lt. Col. Essam Al-Qwassmah, a Jordan Border Guard Force battalion commander. He said the Jordanian Army trusts the American side as a good partner and mentor.

“By the feedback I have had with my Soldiers, they are very happy with this kind of [MRAP] training,” said Al-Qwassmah, “Your efforts are highly appreciated, this kind of training are very useful and beneficial for us.”

MRAPs have been used by the U.S. Armed Forces to combat the influx of improvised explosive devises and as a vessel to transport troops. The construction of the vehicle consists of a deflecting-angled V-shaped hull, or underbody, which reroutes blasts upward and away from the compartment containing troops. There are several variations to the vehicle, safely fitting anywhere from seven to more than 11 personnel. According to Al-Qwassmah, the MRAP vehicles came from the United States and because of this, the JAF Soldiers need more and more training to become more adapt and efficient with these vehicles.

“Our Soldiers respect your capabilities as instructors and can be trusted and they are proud that they have this kind of training with the American side,” said Al-Qwassmah.

The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, but in the world as a whole. This is not going to change.

“Exchanges like these help foster realistic relationships and strengthen each other’s confidence,” said Sierra, “We work to learn about cultural challenges and search for the common ground to enhance each other’s greater qualities while making everlasting friendships, partnerships and future global leaders to advance our tactical mindset and protect one another.”