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Chaos creates competence: Rollover training provides unique experience

Sep 14, 2009

By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - The cabin of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle spins upside down. Foam green ammo cans tumble from floor to ceiling. Soldiers yell as they brace themselves for impact inside of the MRAP vehicle simulator at Camp Liberty, here, Sept. 11.

It may only be a simulation, but the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment know the threat is real.

"Vehicle rollovers are one of the biggest killers for Soldiers," said combat medic Sgt. Andrew Conrique, assigned to E Company, 3rd Bn., 4th ADAR, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. "We ride in these vehicles every day and in case this does happen, we need to know how to get out."

Since May, there have been 28 MRAP vehicle rollovers in Operation Iraqi Freedom, injuring numerous U.S. troops and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, according the Multi National Division - Baghdad safety office.

As a member of a personal security detail that constantly drives the dangerous roads of Iraq, Conrique knows the seriousness of a rollover threat.

"Day after day, we're taking people where they need to go safely," said Pfc. Leroy Hair, an air and missile defense crewmember from Charleston, S.C., assigned to Co. E. "We're pretty much a highly-armored taxi service really."

Luckily, this highly-trained taxi service hasn't been in a rollover yet, but this simulator does provide the Soldiers a good idea of what to expect if they do encounter one, added Hair.

"The surprise is the freefall. Once you unbutton that seatbelt, you go down face first," said Hair excitedly. "Even though it's a simulator and expected, you're tumbling everywhere trying to get out."

"It gives you an idea of how crazy it's going to be - everybody yelling and falling everywhere, especially the gunner," explained Hair about the simulator.

"I just remembered to grab the gunner, it's always what they teach us in training," said Conrique from Riverside, Calif. "When something like this happens you can't be selfish because somebody else's life is in your hands."

Every Soldier inside the vehicle has a particular job to do if they ever encounter a rollover. It requires communication and teamwork to navigate the up-ended MRAP successfully.

"The important thing is how to get out as a team because you can't leave anybody behind," added Conrique.

After all the Soldiers had done multiple scenarios of the training with the vehicle simulator trying all different angles, they agreed on the training's importance.

"For our jobs, we have to be on top of our game and now we will because of this training," explained Hair.

But this training isn't just for the Soldiers who operate MRAP vehicles; it's also for their passengers.

"It's most likely for everyone out there because at one point or another you're going to be riding in a vehicle over here," explained Conrique. "Sometimes we even give civilians a ride."

With the help of simulators like this and the training to be prepared to deal with dangerous situations, Soldiers and civilians can minimize the effect if a rollover occurs.

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