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Seabee Ingenuity Creates New OIF Vehicle Armor

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040504-08

Release Date: 5/4/2004 7:16:00 PM

By Chief Journalist Siegfried Bruner, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group Public Affairs

CAMP MOREELL, Kuwait (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 used ingenuity and initiative to fabricate vehicle protection for convoys heading into harm's way during Operation Iraqi Freedom in April.

Steelworker 1st Class (SCW) Jeffrey Ballas and a crew of eight other steelworkers from NMCB 74 developed an enterprising armor concept and presented the cardboard templates to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group (MEG) for review. Once the brainstorm was approved, steel was worked around the clock in two shifts to outfit 100 trucks with armor inside and out.

The steelworkers cut plate steel for a week and a half, performing a well-choreographed armor installation rodeo.

The goal is effective protection for all types of vehicles and the warriors inside.

"I was really proud of my guys," Ballas said. "The night crew did the cutting and fabricating, and the day crew did the finishing and installation. They did what comes natural to Seabee steelworkers - they took the bull by the horns."

Along with external armor, seats were covered with Kevlar blankets or Kevlar vests. Convoy personnel also wear body armor. As shipments of armor from Marine Logistics Command began to arrive, a combination of locally fabricated and pre-fab armor was installed.

"We were able to get our vehicle doors 100 percent up-armored even before we got all our shipments [of manufactured armor] in," said Lt. Stephen Padhi, a member of the future operations team for the MEG.

Combined, these force-protection measures help ensure that everyone aboard is as safe as possible. A little ingenuity and a lot of sweat equity paid big dividends for Seabees and Marines working convoys out of this key staging base in Kuwait.

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