CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Sparks flew and the sound of pneumatic ratchets rattled across the motor pool as Marines prepared a fleet of humvees for a new level of combat protection.
More than 20 Marines recently prepared the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Command Element’s fleet of humvees for the new Marine Armor Kit designed to better protect Marines from Improvised Explosive Devices and other ballistic battlefield dangers.
Components of the new armor kits include reinforced doors with ballistic windows, flank protection and an air conditioning system. The system is easily installed by Marines or contractors, and is adaptable to both the two-door and four-door humvee variants.
Before installing the new armor kits, the Marines had to remove the earlier generation armor. Unfortunately, the old armor didn’t have a Chemical Agent Resistant Coating, a finish that helps prevent the vehicles from rusting. Without this coating the armor is more susceptible to weather and salt-air damage. Some of the bolts on the old armor had already rusted to the point that they could not be removed with ratchets and had to be ground off instead.
In addition to making room for the new armor, the old armor desperately needed to be removed because it was damaging the humvees’ suspension systems. Both armor kits weigh much more than a stock suspension system is designed to support. The extra weight caused the vehicles to ride much lower to the ground and made them less agile. As a part of the new upgrades, the MEU’s humvees will have their suspensions upgraded once the MAK kits are installed.
“The old armor kits were thrown at us at the last minute before deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Pablo Torrez, the 15th MEU maintenance chief. “Because we got it so late we were unable to upgrade the suspension before heading overseas.”
Another shortfall of the early-generation armor was that the doors left a large opening near the occupants head, making them susceptible to enemy fire and debris from explosions. Additionally, the doors only had a clear plastic flap to protect passengers from the elements.
Although the 15th MEU gladly accepted the early-generation armor, it provided less protection than the MAK type armor possessed by other units in the Iraqi theater. As a result, when the MEU arrived at its Forward Operating Base in Southern Baghdad, the Army loaned them a number of humvees for the Marines to conduct security and stabilization missions, according to Torrez.
According to Staff Sgt. Sydney Young, a Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force planner, the fact that 15th MEU suffered no causalities while in Iraq was a result of the added protection of the Army’s armor and the Marines’ tactics.
The Army’s MAK-type armor was put to the test when 15th MEU Marines driving a humvee struck an IED but none of the passengers were injured.
The 15th MEU is scheduled to receive the new Marine Armor Kits in the near future and install them before their next deployment.