Aging vehicle fleet gets new wheels

Airmen 1st Class Ella Cates, left, and Sarah Romberger, both 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron Convoy Response Force members, prepare one of the new 2012 Up-Armored Humvees on Sept. 18 for a trip to the missile complex the following day.  This vehicle is one of the first of 76 new Humvees that will become mission ready over the next few months.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)

Airmen 1st Class Ella Cates, left, and Sarah Romberger, both 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron Convoy Response Force members, prepare one of the new 2012 Up-Armored Humvees on Sept. 18 for a trip to the missile complex the following day. This vehicle is one of the first of 76 new Humvees that will become mission ready over the next few months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Malmstrom Air Force Base has gained 76 new 2012 Up-Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, commonly known as Up-Armored Humvees, containing many new systems to upgrade the old ones. These new vehicles started to be utilized this past week and will continue throughout the next few months until all of them are mission ready.

The new Humvees will replace most of their successors and add to the vehicle fleet bringing the current number from 164 to 200 - this number includes Humvees, Bearcats, trucks and other GSA vehicles. The old Humvees being replaced will be turned over to the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron for disposition.

According to Tech. Sgt. David Ellingson, 341st Security Support Squadron NCO in charge of the Vehicle Readiness Center, the new upgrades increase the vehicles' reliability and thus reduce mission delays from vehicle maintenance issues. Overall, they will allow Wing One Airmen to fully comply with all guidance and regulations set for them, he said.

"The vehicles will benefit all who support the nuclear enterprise," Ellingson said. "[The new vehicles] feature a coolant system upgrade that will help against overheating and a newer turret design to provide better views for the gunner in the turret. Also, new heated floor mats will be added to help keep our defenders warm in the winter."

The coolant system and floor mats are only two of many improvements the 2012 vehicles have. Others include:

· A fire suppression system, which allows the vehicle to sense heat, sparks and smoke.
· A spare tire mounting system, which holds and lowers spare tires reducing the risk of injury.
· An enlarged rear-access door allowing better access to rear storage.
· A remote-powered turret for gunner control.

Overall, the new systems in the 2012 Humvees provide better protection and decrease the need for unscheduled maintenance.

Wing One Defenders with the convoy section, fire teams and response forces will be the first to gain these wheeled giants. The operators of the vehicles won't see too many changes in the way they're driven; however, according to Ellingson, due to their larger, armored stature, Airmen will need time to adjust to any changes in the way they handle.

"Like all change, Airmen will need time to adjust to the larger and more protective vehicles," he said. "The largest benefit these armored vehicles offer our Airmen and Defenders is the best protection from hostilities should anyone dare to try."

Although the vehicles' heavier armor provides more protection for the Airmen inside, it's something that will take some getting used to in Big Sky Country.

"The biggest challenge will be the conditions in which these vehicles will be used," Ellingson said. "The terrain and environment changes in the [missile] complex so often that the Airmen will have to become familiar with how the armored vehicles respond differently than the regular vehicles."

The fielding of the 2012 Humvees is not done without hard work. Wing One members from the 341st LRS, 341st Communications Squadron/Land Mobile Radio team and 341st Security Forces Group all came together to make the operation a success.

"The work that these shops have accomplished is remarkable and greatly appreciated," Ellingson said. "We'll be the first in Air Force Global Strike Command to have these assets fully operational and fielded."