1st Sust. Bde. PAO, MND-B
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Ninety Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army Division stood proudly on the parade field during their graduation from the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute’s Drivers Training Course March 13.
Not only did they have the honor of being the first Iraqi soldiers to go through the three-day course, but after graduation, they drove off the field in the first 45 M1114 humvees transferred from the U.S. Army to the Iraqi Army.
“These humvees have served as work horses for the United States military and will now serve the Iraqi Security Forces just as well,” said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the Commanding General of Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq.
“The Iraqi Security Forces will have the improved capability fighting against those who seek to do harm against this nation and its people,” Dubik said.
The drivers training program at IASSI is part of the U.S. Army’s humvee fielding initiative, where the U.S. plans to transfer 8,500 humvees to Iraqi Security Forces in the next two years.
When U.S. Army units began trading in their humvees for the new Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles, the humvees were given to Foreign Military Sales and sold to the Iraqi Army.
“As the MRAPs were fielded to the U.S. Army, it created a situation where we had an excess capacity of up-armored humvees. So what happened was discussions were made at high levels within the Army to rather than move these up armored humvees back to the U.S. sell them through the Foreign Military Sales to the Iraqi government to go to the Iraqi Army,” said Col. Kevin O’Connell, the commander of the 1st Sustainment Brigade.
“The 1st Sustainment Brigade’s involvement is the transportation of the MRAPs between VBC and Taji for fielding to units within (Multi-National Division – Baghdad),” said O’Connell.
As the 1st SB helps field MRAPs to U.S. units, the humvees that are transferred to the IA undergo a refurbishment process to ensure the Iraqis receive quality vehicles.
When U.S. military units first turn in the humvees, the Redistribution Property Assistance Team collects vehicles and makes sure they meet the requirements to be refurbished.
The humvee has to have a gunner’s protection kit, all basic items of issue need to be present, and the vehicle can only be in need of minor repairs.
After the vehicles are deemed fit to refurbish, all sensitive items are taken out of them. The chairs and floor mats are also taken out of the vehicles so that they can be washed inside and out.
Sometimes during the process of stripping the humvees, damage to the frame is found. If this happens, the vehicle is not refurbished, but used for parts for other humvees.
“Nothing goes to waste in this program,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Hasley, the officer in charge of logistical support operations for Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq.
Once the humvees are washed, they undergo a technical inspection to find any mechanical problems the vehicles may have. Depending on the issues the vehicles have, they are either sent to the speed line or heavy line when they go in for maintenance.
At the maintenance bay, Iraqi local nationals have been trained to work on the humvees. More than 1,500 people applied for the job, but only 300 were hired and another 200 workers are scheduled to be employed.
“The whole mindset is by the time the civilians get done with the 8,500 humvees they will be specialized on how to fix or repair the M1114s,” said Hasley. “We’re quite impressed with their work standards … It’s quite enjoyable because instead of asking them to fix something, they fix things without being told.”
On the speed line, all humvees have 20 parts that are mandatory for the mechanics to replace, such as the swing arms, ball joints, springs oil and air filters, and serpentine belts. The fluids and electrical system are also checked on the speed line.
The heavy line is reserved for vehicles in need of major repairs, such as engine or transmission problems.
After the repairs are complete and the mandatory replacement parts are put on, the humvees are put through a five-mile road test to check the brakes and gears.
“We make sure we have a sound vehicle after we’ve replaced all the parts,” said Hasley.
When the road test is complete and no extra repairs are needed, the humvees are taken to the paint shop. At the paint shop, the humvees are transformed from a plain tan color to a desert camouflage.
The Iraqi flag is plastered on the front doors of the vehicles, officially making it an ISF humvee.
By the time Iraqi soldiers attend the Drivers Training Course, the refurbished vehicles are ready to be signed for.
During the three-day course, the Iraqis learn to operate and maintain their new vehicles, which is a huge step for many of them considering many of the IA soldiers who go through the course have never had a driver’s license.
“IASSI actually has a hard chore because they have to teach them to drive responsibly and to take care of their vehicle,” said Hasley.
“We also trained the Iraqi Security Forces to drive and perform preventative maintenance checks in an effort to keep the vehicles at a high quality state of readiness. The quality of these vehicles is very good,” said O’Connell.
In the weeks since the first class graduated from the course at IASSI, two more classes have graduated and about 50 more humvees have been fielded to the ISF.
In approximately two years, the IA will own more than 8,500 humvees, which is an upgrade from the pick-up trucks with guns mounted on the back of the ones they use to use on convoys.
By Spc. Andrea Merritt