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M-ATVs to replace Humvees in Afghanistan, vice says

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 18, 2010) -- The mine-resistant ambush- protected all-terrain vehicle, or M-ATV, is on its way to Afghanistan to replace many of the up-armored Humvees.

"It will not be too long before we will be able to get everybody who can be out of the up-armored Humvee into the MRAP ATV," said Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.

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Chiarelli spoke April 14 before the Senate Armed Services Committee readiness and management support subcommittee. The general, along with vice chiefs from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, testified before the subcommittee regarding the current readiness of U.S. forces.

The general said the M-ATV offers Soldiers more protection than the up-armored Humvee. Third Army is now in the process of moving equipment such as MRAPs out of Iraq as part of the drawdown, resetting that equipment, and sending what is needed to Afghanistan.

"We have had great success getting equipment into Afghanistan thanks to the great work of Third Army," he said.

While the Army isn't finished with the Humvee, it did recently announce that it has reached its "acquisition objective" for the vehicles -- meaning that it had finally received as many as it had planned to buy. The last purchase of Humvees comes to about 2,662 of the vehicles, Chiarelli said.

Last week, the Department of Defense sent Congress a reprogramming request for Fiscal Year 2010. Included in that request was a $573-million reduction in the $1.3- billion Humvee procurement funding Congress initially approved for the Army. Chiarelli said with the remaining money, the Army will buy more Humvees, but he also said the Army will begin to recapitalize -- make like-new -- the Humvees it already has.

Chiarelli said the Army plans to recapitalize 5,046 unarmored Humvees, at a cost of about $55,000 per vehicle, and will recapitalize 4,270 up-armored Humvees in FY 2011 at a cost of about $105-$130,000 per vehicle.

The general also told senators the Army expects to reach its dwell goals for Soldiers in most military occupational specialties by 2012, but said the Army is aware that for Soldiers, it's critical that success in achieving dwell goals applies to individual Soldiers -- not to units.

"The only thing that counts is individual dwell," he said. "Keeping track of an inanimate object, like a flag, means nothing. It's the individual that's critical. We do not allow anybody to redeploy that doesn't have 12 months of dwell time."

One senator asked the vice chief about the increasing number of non-deployable Soldiers. The general said the reasons for non-deployable Soldiers can be attributed to the loss of "Stop Loss" in January, and also to medical concerns.

"One of the reasons we've seen it go up is because the Army has taken units off Stop Loss since the first of the year," Chiarelli said. "That alone, given the fact we can only give them a 90-day drop on their contract, we have to hold onto them until they reach that point -- which drives up the non-deployable rate."

Also, the general said, there are medical reasons the non-deployable numbers are rising.

"After three rotations, the knee operation they needed after the first rotation won't wait until after the fourth rotation," he said. "We owe it to them to make sure they have the opportunity to be taken care of."

The general said the largest increase in non-deployable Soldiers has been from those held back due to medical reasons.

"It's because many of those muscular skeletal kinds of issues that arise," he said.

He also said he's seen an increase in individuals that are left behind when their unit deploys. Those individuals would have recently transitioned to a unit that is deploying, and would themselves not have had a full 12 months of dwell time. They eventually deploy to their unit when they reach a full 12 months dwell, the general said.

For injured Soldiers, Chiarelli said, the Army is putting Soldiers with a single disqualifying injury of 30 percent or greater into the Army Wounded Warrior program.

"Of that population, 56 percent have either post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury," Chiarelli told senators. "We are instituting new protocols in theater that require Soldiers that are either in a vehicle that is within 50 meters of a blast or in a building with an explosion to go through an evaluation for a concussion as soon after the event as possible and 24 hours later."

He said Soldiers that pass such an evaluation return to duty. Those that don't are treated by a doctor until their brain has had an opportunity to heal.

Addressing post-traumatic stress, the general said the Army is concerned with Soldiers both at home and downrange. The Army is training medics to better identify PTS when it occurs downrange, and is using telemedicine to evaluate every Soldier that comes back to the United States, he said. So far, Chiarelli said, two units have gone through the evaluations, one battalion in Hawaii and one brigade in Alaska.

"The results using this telemedicine are very, very encouraging," he said.

The vice chief also addressed the cost of reset for the Army -- a concern for Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. In the next three years, the Army expects reset to cost between $30-36 billion, Chiarelli said. That includes close to $11 billion for both FY 2010 and 2011.

The general also said that currently, active-duty components that are not deployed are equipped at a level of about 80 percent, whereas National Guard units are equipped at about 75 percent.

"But critical dual-use equipment is at 83 percent and is expected to make it to 87 percent in the next six months," he said.

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