Trucks at Work
Staff Sgt Jonathan Spencer with the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron rides in the turret of a BEARCAT during training at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jessica Weissman

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Spencer with the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron rides in the turret of a BEARCAT during training at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jessica Weissman)

Training to slalom heavy trucks while under fire

Learning to maneuver trucks weighing 18,000-lbs. safely and smoothly is one thing; doing so on uneven gravel roads while getting shot at is something else.

And that’s before the co-drivers get trained on how to quickly get control of the vehicle if the main driver gets wounded.

Obviously, we’re talking about sharpening the skills of military personnel here; ones tasked with operating a bevy of heavy equipment. And to that end, Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam penned an interesting story about the specialized training these Air Force drivers are undergoing – initially at the hands of civilians no less! – so they can take their vehicle operating skills to a much higher level.

This particular case chronicled by Brosam involved “enhancing” the driving skills of U.S. Air Force personnel at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana tasked with operating an 18,000-lb. Ballistic Armored Response Counter Attack Truck or BEARCAT through the expert tutelage of the instructors from the Vehicle Dynamics Institute (VDI).

VDI personnel helped train a cadre of Air Force instructors who in turn would train “convoy response force” or CRF Airmen, who are responsible for the security and transportation of Malmstrom’s nuclear assets, ensuring the weapons arrive safely at their destination.

“We spend a lot of time preparing for combat but we spend very little time on driver training,” noted Larry Side, VDI’s chief instructor. “Once we get everyone where we need to, the goal is to run concurrent training in various driving exercises on different vehicle platforms.”

Some of the exercises set up for the CRF Airmen included: slalom maneuvering, braking turn, lane shift, evasive lane change, reversing and a “downed-driver” drill.

In the slalom, Airmen drove a BEARCAT along gravel roads at 15, 17, 20 and 22 miles per hour, avoiding evenly spaced cones while maintaining speed, as well as learning how to avoid physical obstacles during an attack in order to escape opposing forces.

The “downed-driver” drill is perhaps the scariest situation these CRF Airmen must face; one also requiring split-second response from the BEARCAT’s occupants.

Driving a BEARCAT through the gravel road course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

The drill simulates an emergency where a driver was incapable of controlling a vehicle, such as being wounded or falling unconscious. The occupants in the vehicle then must works together to help the front passenger or co-driver take control of the BEARCAT – all while continuing to maneuver through the slalom obstacle while under fire.

[Would you like to try that in an 18-wheeler? Me neither!]

VDI’s experts trained Senior Airman Nicholas Campbell with 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron, to be one of the instructors on the course because he is in charge of ensuring that CRF vehicles and their drivers are “ready to go” for each mission.

“This is teaching us reaction time and how to get out of situations that could cause catastrophic events,” he explained, while providing instructors like himself a range “new techniques” for maneuvering the heavy BEAECAT in combat situations on uneven gravel roads.

“We can now keep this training up for everyone and remind them to stay focused on the mission,” he said.

Considering that their cargo on these missions might include nuclear weapons, such driver training must be very welcome indeed.

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