Since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the Army Transportation Corps has progressed greatly in modernizing its tactical truck companies into robust fleets of up-armored vehicles. However, the Transportation Corps should persist in transforming its tactical truck companies' modified tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs) to include mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), which allow for more efficient convoy operations. The MRAP survivability rate is 94 percent, compared to the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) survivability rate of 78 percent.
Leading up to OIF, the M998 HMMWV was the most common tactical vehicle used in the Army and the only tactical vehicle that tactical truck companies used as mission command vehicles. Because of the high mobility requirements for the M998, the Army never intended it to function as an armored vehicle. Not until operations in Somalia in 1993 did the Army begin delivering an up-armored version of the HMMWV, the MX1109.
As early as 1994, the Army started procuring M1114 up-armored HMMWVs for mounted scouts and military police. These vehicles, however, lack adequate levels of protection for the current battlefields. The M1114 can withstand only 8 pounds of explosives beneath the engine and 4 pounds in the cargo area and has limited ballistic windows and steel plate reinforcement to protect the vehicle's occupants.
Vehicles Up-Armored by Soldiers
As stability and support operations increased in Iraq, so did the insurgents' use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Because of this, Army transporters could no longer conduct business as they did before OIF 1. As they did in past engagements, such as World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War, transportation Soldiers had to modify their vehicles in order to protect personnel.
These innovations included sandbags on floorboards and steel fabrications on the sides of vehicles. For the Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, these modifications became known as "mad-max" or "hillbilly" armor. Soldiers often modified cargo vehicles into gun trucks and constructed steel enclosures, or "doghouses," to protect gunners.
During OIF 1, the 181st Transportation Battalion started transforming cargo trucks into gun trucks in order to provide security for its convoys. The 181st started using "tiger teams," which consisted of multiple HMMWVs traveling ahead of and adjacent to convoys, to provide route reconnaissance, rapid route clearance, and increased reaction times for convoy commanders. According to the Transportation Corps historian, Richard Killblane, during a telephone interview, "Nearly every unit in Kuwait and Iraq that ran convoys experimented with armor and developed convoy security doctrine."
External Convoy Security
Tactical transportation units now have to rely on external units to provide convoy security support. However, this is not an effective use of forces, and Army training doctrine requires the tactical transportation company to be proficient in defending its own convoy elements.
Using external units to secure tactical transportation convoys causes deterioration in mission command. This deterioration occurs when two separate units combine to form one convoy. Commanders from both units want and have a sense of ownership in the overall mission; however, only one unit can have mission command. Individual units spend months training before a deployment, allowing Soldiers to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses. Using external units to perform security thus leads to an uneasy unfamiliarity with the capabilities of each unit.
Training is key to a successful deployment. Tactical transportation units train in all areas of convoy operations, including convoy security. Therefore, relying on external convoy security support should no longer be the status quo.
Internal Convoy Security
With a great deal of focus and resources going into the Global War on Terrorism, coupled with the inability of M1114s to withstand IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in 2007 ordered the Department of Defense to start buying MRAPs.
The Transportation Corps should capitalize on the available resources and integrate those resources into its tactical truck company fleets. Such integration occurred in April 2009 when the 32d Transportation Company, a palletized load system company from Fort Carson, Colorado, deployed to Afghanistan. Just weeks before deploying, the company leaders learned that their unit would receive 18 MRAPs in Afghanistan and would have to reorganize in order to provide internal security for its convoys. In doing so, the 32d Transportation Company became the first purely tactical truck company since the start of OIF 1 to conduct its own internal convoy security.
Because the 32d Transportation Company secured its own convoys, it was able to maintain higher levels of efficiency. In addition to being more effective at conducting convoys, adding MRAPs to the tactical transportation company's MTOE allows for—
- Better unity of command within the convoy.
- Better training at home station.
- Better proficiency in battle drills within convoy elements.
- Greater crew familiarity.
The Army should also make personnel changes in the MTOE to add personnel to the tactical truck companies to provide security.
The Army will always have a requirement to conduct convoys, and those convoys require security protection. Having Soldiers who can conduct convoys and Soldiers who can perform convoy security residing in the same company is a win-win scenario for the Transportation Corps and the Army. The MRAP is a proven lifesaver and has reduced casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
By adding the MRAP to tactical truck companies, the Army will enhance its ability to secure and transport supplies across the battlefield. The Army should transform its tactical truck companies to include MRAP vehicles because they allow for more efficient convoy operations.