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Charleston officials begin transporting new Army vehicles

by Staff. Sgt. Robert Sizelove

437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10/2/2008 - CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- Charleston Air Force Base officials began receiving and immediately shipping six new Army High Mobility Engineer Excavator vehicles to warfighters in Southwest Asia Sept. 29 here.

Charleston AFB is the first Air Force base to receive and ship the HMEE, which is a newly developed military construction vehicle capable of a wide range of mobility affording more protection for the operator than standard road repair and construction equipment.

The HMEEs will be transported to forward deployed locations to assist Soldiers and contractors in hostile environments.

"The purpose of the High Mobility Engineering Excavator is exactly that -- mobility -- the machine drives at 60 mph both on- and off-road," said Chris Saucedo, the general manager from the company awarded the contract to build the HMEE. "This machine is definitely different. The concept has been proven with lesser mobile pieces of equipment in terms of rapid road repair. Now you have a machine that can actually integrate into patrols, maintain convoy speeds and it doesn't require additional lift assets."

The HMEE revolutionizes the way engineering is used on the battlefield.

Battlefield commanders can bring logistics capabilities into their tactical patrols dramatically increasing mobility as the vehicle can open up roads, counter-mobility as the HMEE can create obstacles for the enemy, and survivability as the vehicle can provide water and supplies, building berms and laying electrical lines.

"I want every troop in harm's way to know that there is a highly dedicated team behind the HMEE and we're very optimistic and very fortunate to be supporting the troops," Mr. Saucedo said. "It's been a long road but we're all behind you and pulling for you 100 percent."

"What's great about these machines is that they are mine resistant and they give our guys over there who are driving them a precious few seconds to get out of harm's way if they do get hit by a mine or improvised explosive device," said Staff Sgt. Heather Kern, who is assigned to the 437th Ariel Port Squadron.

Charleston AFB was selected to process the HMEEs for shipment because the base is the closest place to the production site in Savannah, Ga.

"It's hard work as far as the loading of the aircraft. It's very physical, but it's worth every minute of it," Sergeant Kern said. "It's very important to make sure the guys on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have the equipment they need."

Charleston AFB members will continue to ship the vehicles to the warfighters as they become available.

In 2007, the contractor received a $230 million procurement contract from the Army to produce 800 HMEEs, all of which will be built at the Savannah facility. The vehicle is the result of a four-year program of design, development and testing between the manufacturers and the Army.

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