April 10, 2006
‘Humvee rotisserie’ gives soldiers a crash course

By Gina Cavallaro
Times staff writer

CAMP NAVISTAR, Kuwait — They call Army Staff Sgt. Shane Anderson “carnie” because he pushes the button on the Humvee rollover simulator, which soldiers call a carnival ride.

“Hey, Sergeant Anderson, how many tickets does it take to go on this ride?” Spc. Aaron Erdmann, 22, of Dakota, Minn., joked before he and two other soldiers climbed the stairs to the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer.

It’s a Humvee body mounted on a motorized axle that spins the vehicle 360 degrees. The soldiers get in, wearing full combat gear, and learn what it feels like to go upside down and back up again.

“Once you spin all the way upside down, it’s not bad, but when you continue all the way over, I kind of fell. But I’m all right now,” said Spc. Timothy Hermann, 20, of Buffalo City, Wis.

The soldiers are with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, of the Wisconsin National Guard. They provide security for convoys heading north into Iraq.

Soldiers said they liked the trainer and found it valuable. But some said it doesn’t replicate the amount of debris — weapons, ammo cans and other gear — that would fly through a Humvee cab in a rollover. However, none of them has been in a rollover.

The incidence of rollovers in new M1114 up-armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan jumped from 28 in fiscal 2004 to 121 in fiscal 2005, according to the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. That’s due in large part to the weight of added armor and the difference in the vehicle’s handling performance, which catches some drivers off guard.

CRC works to eliminate the problem through increased training for both drivers and passengers.

“The biggest thing is knowing what to do when you’re upside down. It’s doing the opposite of what you normally do, getting your bearings,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Kelly, 26, of LaCrosse, Wis.

The HEAT, which some soldiers have called the “Humvee rotisserie,” is driven around the Kuwaiti desert to train troops bound for Iraq.

HEAT is one of several CRC initiatives, including:

• The Army Safe Driver Training program, which instructs soldiers in seven evasive maneuvers commonly used while driving in theater. Units are starting to go through this program before deploying. The CRC is training instructors who can sustain this program for their units.

• The Driving Center of Excellence, which operates driving courses and provides mission commanders with the resources to conduct driver training for up-armored vehicles.

• A CRC-produced DVD showing critical lessons learned while operating up-armored Humvees in theater. The DVD features first-person narration by a brigade command sergeant major who went through a rollover caused by a roadside bomb. The DVD includes pointers on risk management, using seat belts, gunner protection, drills, load plans and battle locks.

Soldiers can watch what’s on the DVD at /crc.army.mil/home/ by clicking “Up-Armored HMMVV Rollover Video” under the “What’s Hot” heading.