FALLUJAH, Iraq -- $34,000.
That’s how much Lance Cpl. Josh Griffin’s unit paid to ‘pimp out’ his ride. To anyone who spends as much time cruising the streets as this 19-year-old Grenada, Miss., native does, this would seem like chump change for a great return investment.
It’s not so much a matter a style and comfort, though, as it is about installing lifesaving features aboard the Marines’ High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles.
“I feel better protected riding around in these because they’re shielded better against roadside bomb blasts,” stated Griffin, a 2002 Grenada High School graduate who currently serves as an infantryman in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
Currently, roadside bombs are among the most common threats Marines face in Iraq and have caused the deaths and injury of hundreds of Coalition, Iraqi and civilian personnel.
To change this, Griffin’s unit, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is receiving several Marine Armor Kits to install aboard the troops’ HMMWVs.
According to Capt. Christopher Cannon, the battalion’s logistics officer, the unit has received 23 new, MAK-equipped HMMWVs distributed from the higher headquarters. Twenty-five more vehicles are on the way, he added.
“There is also a facility in Camp Taqaddum that upgrades the vehicles we already have,” Cannon continued. “We’ve been giving them trucks; they do the MAK installation, and then return them to us. We’ve been seeing a two to three week turnaround with the TQ (Taqaddum) program.”
Whether installed aboard new vehicles or those comprising the existing fleet, MAK provide Marines like Griffin significant extra protection against small arms fire shrapnel blasts.
All of the vehicles Marines drive here are equipped with some armor. MAK-equipped HMMWVs, however, contain thicker metal side panels, with taller sheets of armor encircling the vehicles’ rear troop carrying area. These plates protect the Marines’ entire bodies as they convoy through Iraq.
As they cruise down the perilous roadways, Marines can also watch out for threats from behind their vehicles’ ballistic glass windows.
Extra protection isn’t all that MAK brings to the field, however.
These new kits also feature a step that troops can use as they board and dismount their HMMWVs. Previously, Marines had to either jump on or scramble aboard their vehicles using the rear ball hitch.
Troops also praise the MAK vehicles for their inclusion of what they consider a practical necessity in Iraq’s 115-degree plus weather: air conditioning.
“You’re not sweating all the time,” Griffin stated. “The sweat’s not dripping in your eyes, so you can see better, and you’re more focused on what’s going on around you, rather than being miserable. We’re not already hot and exhausted by the time we get to where we’re going; we’re actually cool and kind of comfortable.”
In addition to hardening the HMMWVs, the battalion personnel are upgrading their fleet of seven-ton trucks against the same bomb and small arms threats.
Units around Iraq continue performing upgrades to their vehicles in hopes of minimizing further deaths on the country’s roadways.
“We have approximately 50 vehicles remaining to get MAK,” Cannon said. “The plan is for the Marine Corps to have all MAKs installed by Dec. 2005, but with the turnaround times we’ve seen so far, we should see them all complete before then.”