AL ASAD, Iraq -- The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is riding a little safer these days thanks to recent improvements to its fleet of humvees.
A Marine-Civilian team recently arrived here from Al Taqaddum, Iraq, to upgrade the armor on 60 of the Wing’s humvees. The mobile installation team is part of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Armor Installation Team, currently based at Al Taqaddum. The MAIT has been in Iraq since March, installing Marine armor kits, an armor upgrade package developed by MarCorSysCom. The only thing slowing the installation of the kits was the logistics of getting the installers and the humvees in the same place.
“The Wing had humvees that needed to be upgraded, but no easy way to get them to TQ,” said Master Sgt. David B. Wikler, the 2nd MAW maintenance management officer and a Boulder, Colo., native. “These guys wanted to install as many kits as possible, so they offered to pick up and move out here. It’s been really impressive the way they just do what it takes to get the job done.”
Corporal Brian Cavuto, a MAIT noncommissioned officer-in-charge and Austin, Texas, native, led the team here from Al Taqaddum. Cavuto serves as a liaison for the Civilian team and the Marine units they are working with.
“I coordinate the workload, communicate with the units and report up the chain on our progress,” Cavuto said. “What we’ve set up here is a contact team at a satellite site. It was easier and safer for us to move out here than to take these humvees to TQ. “
The MAK is the total package for humvee armor upgrades. It can be installed onto any model and provide the same protection regardless of the humvee’s setup. Instead of using off-the-shelf items and field-expedient methods like welding extra pieces on the humvees’ frame, the MAK is a blend of knowledge gained from experience, ballistics testing and the latest armor-blending technology. The kits include ballistic blankets, upgraded panels and doors, ballistic glass a new air conditioning system, as well as new shocks and springs to support the additional weight.
“We really feel like this is the best thing out there,” Cavuto said. “It was designed by Marines, for Marines. Once the kits were combat tested, we knew we were going to be serving an important purpose by being out here.”
Civilian contractors from Honeywell Technical Solutions Incorporated are installing the kits, working nonstop 12-hour shifts to keep the Wing’s armor rolling.
“They responded pretty well to the move,” Cavuto said. “They took it in stride, like it’s just another part of the job. Plus, it breaks the monotony of working nonstop in TQ. But these guys are real professionals, they work together as a team real well and they were motivated to come here because they knew it would help Marines.”
The mechanics work on each humvee in teams of at least three and usually spend eight to 12 hours installing a kit. The teams are also performing limited maintenance and upkeep on their humvees.
“One of the most important things we do is reinforcing the suspension,” said James Hultgren, a Honeywell mechanic and Harmony, Minn., native. “We’re adding around two tons to the frame, so it’s got to be able to drive with all that weight, otherwise the armor upgrades are pointless. We’re also working with people who might have cracked glass or something small we can help with.”
The mission of the civilian teams is to install a product, but they know the safety of a Marine is behind every turn of a wrench, Cavuto said.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with them,” Cavuto said. “You can tell by the quality and speed of the work that they are doing good things. They are saving lives and they know it. It is why most of them came out here.”
Fighting the dangerous effects of an improvised explosive device is just as important as fighting insurgents, Hultgren said. The civilian team is dedicated to winning their part of the battle, one humvee at a time.
“This is obviously a big need,” Hultgren said. “It feels good to fill that role. This is less about us and more about what we can do to protect Marines.”