'That Thing is a Freaking Monster'

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I interviewed the new commander of the Marine Special Purpose MAGTF in Afghanistan this morning and thought I'd fill folks in on some interesting gear news he made while we talked. And just for your information, I'm working on a more comprehensive story on his new command for Military.com to post either tomorrow or the next day.

But a few things first:

The new commander is Col. Duffy White. He's the 3rd Marine Regiment Commander based in Hawaii and attached to his SPMAGTF is an aviation element consisting of helos from HMLA 269 and HMH 466 He's also got some KC-130s that can help him out from VMGR-252.

You'll remember we've spoken in the past with Lt. Col. Rick Hall, the commander of 2/7, who got a bit beat up out there with a large AO and little support.

This time, White's equipped with the gear he needs to keep his troops safe and do a better job of pushing the mission. First of all, he's got a bunch of MRAP vehicles that he can use for route clearance and other convoy needs. He's also got EOD personnel and a ton of other heavy vehicles that come along with the logistics group that's attached to his MAGTF.

"I also have some revised mine rollers that have a hydraulic down-pressure mechanism that enables the rollers to get down into the undulating terrain and into the former shot holes and things to get in there to the pressure plates," White told me, noting the evolution from command-detonated IEDs to pressure plate triggers. "The unsung hero ... is the MTVR. That thing is a freaking monster out here. And you know, when you strap a mine roller onto the front of an MTVR you're doing good. So right now, for my force I have enough vehicles."

But White mentioned the new MRAPs being developed for all-terrain use.

The SecDef "was saying that they were pushing some research toward developing MRAPs that would be more conducive to off-country mobility. So that would be something that I would say we need the most. ... Being able to make your own roads when you need to, to go off road and be able to surprise some enemy is the key."

White said drone surveillance is also important in his AO, which stretches across the southern hilt of Afghanistan into Helmand and Farah provinces. So he's trying to tie imagery from his Scan Eagle drones directly to displays in his vehicle convoys.

"It doesn't do me very much good to see the Scan Eagle feed in my CP. It would be a lot better if the convoy commander can see that on the convoy," White said. "So we're looking to retrofit and put that stuff together."

I also asked him about the MV-22, which has yet to be deployed to Afghanistan...whether he had any in his aviation combat element, had any coming or thought he would need any for the mission. Here's what he told me:

"With the Osprey ... I think the fast forward flight mode of the Osprey -- man, you could put forces on the battlefield where they need to be in a big hurry," White said...But read carefully what he says next...

"I think the enemy has it templated out where ... they know how long it takes for [fixed wing] air to check on station and start working. So, man, I think those Ospreys you could set some blocking forces behind some enemy and I think you could really be able to out maneuver them and gain the upper hand pretty quickly. So I would look forward to the opportunity to work with the Osprey..."

Keep looking for more on my exclusive interview with Col. White here and at Military.com.

-- Christian

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