MOSUL, Iraq: The new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles used in theater have proven extremely effective in protecting Soldiers of the 84th Engineer Battalion (Construction Effects) from deadly attacks by remaining extremists, here, during their yearlong deployment.
Nearly every mission that the “Never Daunted” Battalion has participated in while serving in northern Iraq has featured at least a few MRAPs in their convoys. However, maintaining such a new fleet of vehicles has been an arduous task for the mechanics of the battalion.
Hard to find parts, unfamiliar systems and design quirks are a few things the maintenance Soldiers of the Forward Support Company (FSC) have dealt with day after day. Thankfully, the highly skilled mechanics in the FSC have invented a few things to keep the 84th Engineers moving – literally.
Soldiers realized after a few weeks of working with the MRAPs that even simple tasks like changing tires prove to be inefficient with the tools organic to the unit. Lifesaving armor plates featured on several of these vehicles added to difficulties, since they hindered access to the tires and tire wells.
Enter the creativity of the Forward Support Company’s stellar mechanics. Sgt. Frank Lopez, along with other Soldiers of the company, designed a small bracket that allows them to prop up the armor on one model of MRAP when changing the tires on it.
Lopez took his design to the welding team, which in turn eagerly brought his creation to life. The handy invention has saved countless hours of labor for the mechanics during their time in Mosul.
In addition to the boost in efficiency, Lopez is even more satisfied with the safety the new bracket provides his Soldiers while they work.
“What’s time when you can guarantee Soldiers’ lives? I wouldn’t even mind if it added time, if I can assure no one gets injured,” said Lopez.
Serving on his third combat tour in Iraq, Lopez is in his thirteenth year of service in the Army. He lists the hardest challenges he’s faced during the deployment as maintaining the unique mix of old and new equipment being used, along with the limited parts and tools available to fix them.
He would like to eventually assist in the designing of new military vehicles (like the MRAPs), as well as design specialized tools to help Soldiers do their jobs safely and efficiently.
Lopez may well get his chance to help the Army find better ways to support its deployed warriors. He was commended for his ingenious work by the battalion command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Roy D. Ward, and his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Nicholas W. Katers.
Recently, a Science and Technology Assistance Team inquired about visiting the FSC, 84th, to see the MRAP brackets designed by Lopez and his Soldiers. The team will analyze the effectiveness of the device, as well as the possibility of mass producing it.
The mechanics plan to showcase other inventions they have developed during the past year. Teams are dispatched throughout Iraq in an effort to continuously improve the techniques and resources available to all units downrange.