My team woke up early eagerly anticipating our departure from BAF with our refurbished MRAPs. We knew we still had a lot of work ahead of us so everyone quickly packed their gear. There was one unwelcome surprise; the main shower house was closed so we had to utilize the small ones on the opposite end of the encampment. This was only a minor setback.
The contractors were still actively repairing the MRAPs. Our AF mechanic identified a problem with the engine starter and the ECM issues were being resolved. In the interim, the team worked on preparing the MRAPs for travel. Our AF ETT Team leader and a Navy Petty Officer were working on the antennas, while the rest of us were preparing to turn in the old HMMVWs. These vehicles did their time and like old soldiers they were being laid to rest. In reality, they will probably be refurbished and sold as part of the Foreign Military Sales program.
As we drove to the turn-in lot we passed a staging area of MRAPs in various stages of disrepair. These armored Titans were victims of accidents and IED attacks. I saw first-hand what the explosive power of fertilizer mixed with diesel fuel could do these vehicles. It was obvious despite the increased protection and technological advances, the MRAPs are not immune to these lethal bombs. As reported by the McClatchy newspaper, this sentiment was echoed by Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell, “There’s not an armored vehicle you could build that would likely protect you against a 1,000 pound fertilizer bomb”. He was referring to a recent attack on a Stryker brigade in Kandahar Province. But in retrospect, these armored MRAPs do save lives. As reported by Associated Press, “only 8 servicemen have died in MRAPs as a result of IED attacks this year in Afghanistan.” One death is too many, but this latest technology has proven its million dollar price tag.
In addition, most of the MRAPs you see in these pictures are being actively
repaired and will be returned to service. Often I give contractors a hard time with some of my writings, but when it comes to our safety, the manufacturers of MRAPs are listening to the servicemen’s needs and thus OshKosh has designed the M-ATV MRAP. Often our pleas and suggestions seemed to be ignored and ruled in favor of procurement military officers who side with the contractor for an exchange of a future job with these manufacturers they give million dollar contracts to. But maybe this is changing or at least in the MRAP world.
Before departing BAF I took some pictures of some old ruins. I’m uncertain the age of these structures, but I am guessing around 14th century. I was unable to find out the historical relevance, but I do know the ancient city of Bagram has origins dating back to around 320 BC when it was captured by Alexander the Great. Wouldn’t it be great if some time in the near future these historic relics are opened to the public as a tourist site? I’m sure there are many archeologists who are chomping at the bit to visit these ruins. Personally I am intrigued by the military history of this country and pleasantly surprised how these historical ruins and relics have survived centuries of war and continual environmental exposure.
Shortly after lunch, we were given the green light to depart BAF. We still had a long drive ahead of as we were supposed to go to FOB Airborne and exchange these MRAPs with the Marines. As part of the deal, my ETT team would get 3 MRAPs out of the deal. Approximately 24 miles south of BAF, the radio silence broke, “We are losing power and can’t keep up!” The convoy speed slowed to a crawl of 10 mph, one of our MRAPs was having mechanical problems. We had no choice but to pull off the side of the road and attach a tow-bar. Recall Rule #1: Do not stop the convoy, except in a case of an emergency. Precious time was ticking and a decision was made to cancel our original trip and head back to camp, try to repair the vehicle and in the morning resume the mission.