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OT/ Iraqis Beef up HUMVEE armor
By PAUL GARWOOD, Associated Press Writer
TIKRIT, Iraq - Humvees have become a regular target for roadside bombs planted by Iraqi insurgents, so who better to call on to strengthen U.S. military vehicles against future blasts than Iraqis themselves.
While driving through the Kurdish-controlled northern city of Kirkuk several months ago, Master Sgt. Dana Watson, 43, of St. Johns, Mich., came up with the idea to seek local assistance when he spotted men at a metal works shop grinding and welding pieces of steel.
"I went to these guys with the design to fit our vehicles with some kind of reinforced steel and asked if they could build a prototype," Watson, a combat engineer with the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, said recently. "They said they could, and after making a bid for the project, they won the tender."
The winning company, which belongs to Kirkuk businessman Delshat Peerot Aziz, has built and installed 8mm thick steel casings in the rear compartments of 100 Humvees and other vehicles where gun-toting soldiers sit. It also fitted new doors made of the same material onto each of the vehicles.
While watching the Iraqi Kurdish workers putting the finishing touches on several Humvees, Watson said the revamped vehicles out of Fort Hood, Texas, can repel the blasts from roadside bombs and machine gun fire.
"Our number one concern was IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," said Spc. Christopher Roessner, 20, of Ventura, Calif., while sitting in the back of one of the strengthened vehicles. "I feel a whole lot safer sitting in the back of one of these Humvees than the old ones."
Roessner and his fellow soldiers go on daily patrols of dangerous roads in Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s hometown of Tikrit, where anti-U.S. insurgents have planted improvised explosive devices that have killed and wounded many U.S. troops.
Aziz and the 15 engineers he employed to refit each of the vehicles are Iraqi Kurds, an ethnic group that had been long oppressed under Saddam's Baath regime. But the Kurds in Iraq (news - web sites)'s north have enjoyed greater freedoms than most Iraqis since the 1991 Gulf War (news - web sites) due to aerial protection from U.S.-led air forces.
"I am happy to be working with U.S. soldiers because they brought freedom to Iraq," Aziz told The Associated Press. "If I can make it safer for them to do their work, then I am helping Iraq become safer."
Good stuff. [img]images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]