Support units in Iraq have found that they need to provide
to their vehicles. The first SBCT’s support battalion
began this process before it deployed and continued to modify
its vehicles’ up-armor design
to counter threats to their troops throughout its time in Iraq.
HMMWV resembles a Mad Max vehicle, thus the nickname “Mad
Attakai” for the name of the welder who designed
Before we deployed from Fort Lewis, Washington,
to Operation Iraqi Freedom in November 2003, the 296th Brigade
Support Battalion (BSB) of the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division—the
first Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT)—learned about
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and some of the hostile
forces tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that we might
encounter. We started looking for ways to protect our BSB soldiers
from IEDs on the roads of Iraq, concentrating on hardening
vehicles with sandbags after we arrived in Kuwait.
At Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pacesetter near Samarra, Iraq, we learned from
other units the basic requirements for IED protection and began experimenting
with different up-armor configurations. The brigade S–4 procured about
1,000 sheets of steel for configuring armor for two- and four-door high-mobility,
multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) to protect the soldiers from drive-by
shootings and IEDs. With the sandbags that we installed before departing Camp
Udairi, Kuwait, we felt the HMMWVs had sufficient protection.
At that time, we only had one welder, Specialist Lyle Attakai, who worked day
and night cutting and fitting the design that would come to be known as the “Mad
Attakai” up-armor special because it resembled one of the heavily armored
vehicles in the Mad Max movie series. The Mad Attakai armor designs became in
demand throughout the brigade.
The only shortcoming of these designs was that they did not provide protection
from the weather. In the desert, we did not expect rain to be a factor. However,
we were wrong. We arrived in country at the beginning of the winter months, and
it was cold and rainy at times as we conducted operations near Samarra and in
We spent about 45 days at FOB Pacesetter before moving north to Mosul to replace
the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). During those 45 days, our welder up-armored
as many of the unit’s vehicles as he could. We took all unused steel with
us to Mosul so he could complete the up-armoring. Not all vehicles were up-armored
before leaving FOB Pacesetter, but the vehicles without armor used sandbags for
protection as the brigade moved north.
Kevlar blankets, which also can be used to help provide protection, were slow
to arrive during the initial stages of our deployment. It took from 30 to 40
days to receive supplies ordered from the continental United States.
When the 101st Airborne Division redeployed to Kuwait, all of its up-armor materials
were returned to us in Mosul. We also received TARDEC kits (up-armor kits developed
by the Tank and Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center) for
two- or four-door HMMWVs, and we continued to modify our original “Mad
Attakai” design. As the hostile forces changed or modified their TTPs,
we revised our up-armor requirements.
Once we arrived in Mosul, the 296th BSB’s Forward Maintenance
Company’s requirement to up-armor HMMWVs broadened to
include up-armoring heavy, expanded mobility tactical trucks
(HEMMTs) and medium tactical vehicles (MTVs). Local nationals
helped our small welding crew with the cutting, fitting, and
mounting of all the up-armor on the vehicles. This significantly
increased our production.
The HEMMT load-handling systems and wreckers were our primary concern since these
were the 296th BSB’s primary vehicles for resupplying, recovering, and
supporting the SBCT. HEMMT drivers and passengers did not think they had enough
protection with the original up-armor design, so our welders worked to improve
the design used to armor these vehicles. Visible external armor provided double
protection—by hardening the vehicle and by discouraging attack by enemies
who saw that the vehicle was armored.
Hostile Forces’ TTP
Some of the hostile forces’ TTPs included the use of ground-level IEDs,
height-elevated IEDs, and daisy-chained mortars. The IEDs often are detonated
remotely and accompanied by small arms attacks. Protection from these devices
required a modification of the original “Mad Attakai” design. The
new design provided a more comprehensive defense against IEDs or small arms attacks.
Next, we looked at a way to protect the gunner in the back of our gun-truck HMMWVs.
Once we received pedestal mounts that would allow us to position M249 machineguns
on swivels, our welders designed a template for steel up-armor to be mounted
around the rear area of our HMMWVs. In addition to protecting the gunners, this
armor helped prevent the pedestal gunners from falling out of the vehicle.
Up-armoring the 296th BSB’s vehicles in Iraq was a learning process. It
required flexibility and creativity. We learned that all vehicles on the road
should have visible up-armor to deter attack and that passengers must be alert
and focused on their surroundings. ALOG
Captain Daniel P. Fresh is the Commander of the Forward Maintenance
Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry
Division, at Fort Lewis, Washington. He has a B.A. degree in
history from Southeastern Louisiana University and is a graduate
of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics
Captains Career Course, and the combined Arms and Services
gun trucks protects the gunner in the back of the