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Al Anbar Seabees Integrate Big Cat into Convoy Security Team

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070408-03
Release Date: 4/8/2007 12:46:00 PM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Shane Montgomery, 30th Naval Construction Regiment Public Affairs

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (NNS) -- A Seabee Convoy Security Team (CST) in the Al Anbar province of Iraq added a robust mechanical feline to its repertoire of vehicle types April 1.

The Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV), better known by CSTs as “Cougar,” is the U.S. military’s newest response in the battle against road-side improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq.

Different variations of the Cougar began arriving in Iraq in the late fall of 2004 as part of an accelerated Defense Department acquisition program. Reports from the war-torn region said the heavyweight trucks had saved many American lives. The armored, wheeled trucks feature a V-shaped bottom designed to deflect the upward explosive power of roadside bombs that have accounted for the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

Seabee CSTs traveling from Camp Fallujah were the first naval construction units to receive the new heavily armored vehicles that are known to ward off fatal energy produced by the IEDs favored by insurgents.

“Not only are they safer, but they feel safer,” said Steelworker 1st Class Jesus Llamas, a member of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28, who was one of two Seabees chosen to accompany the first two JERRVS from Port Hueneme, Calif., to Camp Fallujah. “The Cougars will help us better accomplish missions because we feel safe and have a better sense of security.”

While the Marines have had experience with Cougars for nearly three years, Navy Seabees are getting their first opportunity with the heavily fortified vehicles.

“The first six Cougars are being flown in from the states and the rest will be shipped within a few months,” said Chief Construction Mechanic Mark Loegering, 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) Civil Engineer Support Equipment Manager. “By August, we expect to have 60 JERRVs to replace our humvees.”

According to Loegering, the $700,000 machine seats up to eight plus one additional person in the turret. The plan is for the 40,000-pound, JERVV to replace the low to the ground flat bottom Humvee that is traditionally used as a convoy asset.

“This is another strong step in a direction to change the course of this war forever,” said Capt. Kate Gregory, commodore for 30th NCR who is responsible for providing combat construction for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) in the Al Anbar province.

“Keeping our forces safe so that we can complete missions quickly and efficiently is key to our winning here in Iraq. These vehicles are proven safer and better capable to ensure our success as we support operations in this province.”

Seabees who’ve operated the vehicles admit they are a welcomed addition to the CSTs.

“I felt extremely safe traveling in the Cougar,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Nicolle Dupepe, an NMCB 28 Sailor. “When you’re operating a vehicle that is designed specifically to survive an IED blast, you don’t mind traveling these roads.”

“These vehicles provide unmatched protection capabilities for combat engineers and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams by withstanding both armor-piercing and anti-tank mine blasts,” Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, Commander, Marine Corps Systems Command told the House Armed Services Committee during a June 15 hearing in Washington.

The Seabees inaugural mission for the Cougar was a trip from Camp Fallujah to Al Taqaddum, providing security for tractor trailers hauling building material in support of ongoing and future construction projects. The mission was completed without incident and as a result started a new era for the Seabees in Iraq.

There are nearly 1,300 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq as a part of 30th NCR.

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