Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Oshkosh Vehicle

Rafik, the youngest character in Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, undergoes a rather explosive journey in an Oshkosh vehicle belonging to the US Marines.

I hope you followed his footsteps thus far, from his home village of Nauzad, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan all the way to Camp Bastion, and through the Afghan desert.

The past – a journey of heroes in the pre-Oshkosh vehicle era

How interesting it was researching the vehicles used by the US Marines in Afghanistan! We are all familiar with the classical WWII image of a US soldier in a jeep.

US jeep WWII - journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle

With the need for an improved army vehicle dating back to the 1970s, it was in 1989 that new and improved combat vehicles, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV – colloquial: Humvee) were first used and soon replaced all tactical vehicles. The Humvee first gained national fame during the First Gulf War.

the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV - colloquial: Humvee). journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle

After 9/11, when US troops were deployed in Afghanistan, the Humvee proved perfect on the non-existing roads and rough mountainous terrain.

The Humvee has been in use for 30 years. It was praised by soldiers for its off road capabilities and became so popular that even a civilian version was created, “I’ll take one in red.”

The civilian model Humvee
The civilian model Humvee

The Humvee was much liked by the soldiers in the “pre-IED” (Improvised Explosive Device) era. The soldiers would “customize” it by removing unnecessary armor and even doors, making the Humvee more maneuverable and increasing their visibility.

Came Iraq War, the use of IEDs and car bombs – and the Humvee’s popularity decreased. Its new armored doors weighed hundreds of pounds and were hard to open and additional armor to the turret decreased its road stability.

A new vehicle for the US Army: the Oshkosh

The Oshkosh M-ATV is the new a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle used by the US Army and the US Marines.

There are high chances that you have seen the Oshkosh before and its interior – on which info and images are hard to find as are classified. The Oshkosh was the guest star on Iron Man, alongside Robert Downey Jr.

And you will see the Oshkosh wherever US Army and Marine Corps will be deployed until 2060. The standard Oshkosh has a two-inch thick windscreen, a reversing camera, and a bulletproof skin.

As the Oshkosh vice president put it, these new army vehicles have “the protection of a light tank and the mobility of a Baja race truck.” – yet they are “light enough” that a Sikorsky Stallion helicopter can lift one, or even two in their light-arms-resistant form.

You can see below an Oshkosh lifted by a King Stallion Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter.

How is the Oshkosh different from a Humvee? Read on.

‘The Humvee, colloquial for HMMWV, short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, was a four-wheel-drive no-joke combat vehicle primary used by the Army and Marines up until a couple of years back in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The increased number of patrol ambushes, IEDs and suicide attacks against such tanks on wheels soon forced the soldiers to think out of the box and bolt steel plates to their Humvees for protection. Add this extra weight to the already low design of the Humvee and the Pentagon saw itself forced to rush back to the drawing boards and come up with an improved design for a combat vehicle, this time calculated with the safety of its four occupants in mind. Something strong enough to withstand the blast of an IED placed on the road, yet light enough to be transported by a helicopter. Fast enough to allow the driver to take off in a dangerous situation, yet better suited to the uneven Afghan terrain. The Oshkosh JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) came through and FOB Day owned a brand new one.

On Dunn’s request, Kent took his place on the driver’s ‘throne’, as they jokingly called any of the four seats inside the Oshkosh as opposed to the Humvee’s close to zero padding metal seats. Dunn took the gunner’s seat, on the left side behind the driver. Once the medical technician secured the child in the back seat an eerie silence settled inside the vehicle.

‘Listen!’ Kent’s eyebrows went up with his index finger.

Both Dunn and the technician cocked their heads.

‘I hear zilch,’ said Dunn preparing his video screen for the roof-mounted remote weapons station. ‘Ex-xactly,’ said Kent, watching the big gates swing open. ‘I have great appreciation for this bubble of toughness,’ he added, caressing the dark dashboard. Making use of the sleek touchscreen Kent looked like he was back in his gaming-days until his hand stopped on the auto gear-lever sticking out in the darkness. The muted hum of the Oshkosh’s V8 started at the simple press of a button and, after Kent slot it in into drive the truck began gliding forward.’

‘‘Bye-bye Humvee?’ Kent chuckled, ‘I love that stinky, creaky tough old-bull-dog.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Oshkosh US Marines new vehicle - journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle
The Oshkosh

‘The Oshkosh, an all-terrain, Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle was such a solid truck that nothing should have been able to shake it. In theory.

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Yet nowhere is safe in Afghanistan and, soon enough, the Taliban have adjusted their attack technique with the arrival of the new US Army vehicles, the Oshkosh.

Will Rafik survive this journey alongside the Silent Heroes in the Oshkosh vehicle that’s supposed to be IED proof? And where will he go next?

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2 Replies to “Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Oshkosh Vehicle”

  1. That’s an interesting account of the transition from Jeep to Oshkosh. That process included, in other wars, Landrovers, Ford F250s and Toyota Landcruisers. The latter still used in many continuing conflicts in Africa.

    It is also interesting that in the 1970s and 80s, tiny Rhodesia and much larger South Africa both developed home grown vehicles that protected troops against landmines as effectively and I guess at a fraction of the cost of the Oshkosh.

    Models were named after African wild animals, with one of the larger – capable of carrying a full platoon of infantry called a Crocodile.

  2. I celebrate your vast knowledge, Peter 🙂

    Interesting to learn how different army trucks were preferred in various war zones. It would be a fascinating subject to research 🙂

    South Africans were forced to become extremely inventive and self-sufficient during the UN embargo of ’60s-90’s, as my husband tells me 🙂 Because of the apartheid-related oil embargo SA was forced to substitute oil for coal, and later natural gas and nuclear energy. Here we still make oil from coal.

    I do remember now, that you mentioned it, looking at some pictures about the South African Border Wars, perhaps in the South African National Museum of Military History. I think the mine-proof Crocodile was there. 🙂 Impressive vehicle!

    I do miss going to the museums.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Peter. And for visiting. We’re out of koeksister, but I can offer you rusks and a cup of coffee or Rooibos tea. 😉

    Stay safe.

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