Sunday, March 28, 2010

Avoid the Turret

Everybody knows what a humvee is.  Hummer may be out of business, but guys drive those puppies around every city and most towns.  I even saw one in southern California with the plates that read: "TRMN8OR" - not sure if that belonged to the 'Governator' or not; the windows were darkly tinted. 

Here we have tricked out humvees complete with armor and a 50 caliber machine gun in a turret up on top.  The guy up there has an obvious job, with clear appeal to 20 year old infantrymen.  Most of the time, however, these guns have the safety on, and fingers off the trigger.  The guy just sits up there with his IBA (individual body armor - kevlar flak jacket) and 20lb helmet, looking lean and mean.  Also here, however, most of the roads are unpaved or riddled with defects, and the dust swirls without notice in the eyes of the pilot of any vehicle.  So, accidents happen.  Vehicles roll off the road, skid in mud, and send passengers flying when hitting the potholes. 

The particular unenvious position to occupy when any of these missteps occurs is in the turret.  One might think that in the 8th year of the war, these vehicular outcroppings would be lined with titanium, and giant hydraulic shocks.  Alas, the brave, and likely unaware young man manning the big gun has but a seat belt and an alloy cage fencing around him.  In the handful of humvee accidents I have seen, via IED or weather or bad road, the man in the turret is usually the one with the short stick.  Head injuries, pulmonary contusions, abdominal trauma, and likely (though I have not seen, thankfully) decapitation are all in the litany of 'turreter dings.' 

Dangerous jobs in the military usually come as advertised.  Guys who deal with explosives understand that explosives can explode.  Those who fly fighters realize they are traveling at the speed of sound 6 miles from the surface of the earth, and that it ain't without risk.  Anyone who carries a loaded gun in a war zone knows they can also be shot.  But unexpected injuries and deaths, or those which occur in cases which equipment is judged to be suboptimum are particular regrettable.  During the past 10 years, body armor and vehicle armor has improved greatly - the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles) one of the more well known advances (  I think we still have progress to make.

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