First of all, let me just say up front: Since my recent return from Iraq, I have officially become a fan of the MRAP.
O.K., I said it. You've read plenty of skeptical stories here at DT on the usefulness of the MRAP and the prudence of a "crash" program to buy gobs of them for Iraq. I stand by my principle criticism. But after having spent some time in MRAPs -- particularly the RG-33 6x version -- I have to admit I feel pretty safe riding in them.
I'll lay out more of my case in subsequent posts, but suffice it to say in the Humvee I have to get my 6'2" frame in and out of one like a clown car -- folding one leg in and reaching out to fold the next one into the small foot wells. There's no place to stow a bag and tri-pod or other reporting gear in a Humvee.
Not so the MRAP. Cushy seats, room for multiple coolers, backpacks full of snivel gear and snacks and radios, DVD players and iPod speakers.
I'll take an MRAP over a Humvee any day.
Now to the point...
One of the cool pieces of gear I noticed when I was tromping around with some EOD folks near Tikrit is this crazy snow blower looking gizmo attached to several of the unit's MRAPs. The unit commander tells me they're called "Blow Torch" and what the guys tell me is that they shoot out a blistering stream of air to uncover IEDs, command wire and other detonators attached to a roadside bomb without having to tinker with it by hand or with a robot.
The system was recognized in August 2007 as one of the Army's "greatest inventions" and so far it's been deployed to principally Army units in Iraq for about two years.