In a ceremony in August, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Charleston, now realigned under SSC Atlantic, celebrated the integration of the 10,000th Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle at its location on Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, S.C.
MRAP vehicles are outfitted with a full complement of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems installed by Charleston employees.
MRAP armored vehicles have been the Defense Department's top acquisition priority for months because they are proven lifesavers for warfighters on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MRAPs boast a V-shaped hull that deflects bomb blasts and protects troops inside better than other military combat vehicles, especially from the deadly effects of improvised explosive devices.
Four Soldiers, who have used MRAP vehicles in Iraq, spoke to more than 400 Charleston employees, industry partners and leaders from related commands involved in the integration effort. Private First Class Rusty Davis, Specialists Raymond Rodriguez and Richard Montano, and Sgt. Johnny Simmons spoke to the assembled crowd.
"It is an honor for us to be here and to meet you," Davis said. "Because of you, the four of us are able to stand here. Six months ago in Iraq, we had just left to return to the [base.] We were six MRAPs heavy and I was driving one. We started taking indirect fire … small arms fire, mortars and IEDs. No one was injured; not one of us got as much as a scratch or a bruise."
"So many people I have spoken to here this morning have called us 'heroes,'" Davis continued. "I am just glad to have a chance to stand here and tell you that you are our heroes."
"Thank you for being here, and thank you for saving Soldiers' lives," added Rodriguez.
Capt. Bruce Urbon, who inherited the program when he relieved Capt. Red Hoover as SSC Charleston commanding officer in June, noted that Hoover would have been especially happy to see the 10,000th integrated MRAP vehicle roll off the line on Aug. 1.
"In the last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and various congressmen, generals and admirals have visited the integration facility to view operations and to thank the integrators for their hard work," Urbon told the assembled team.
"As the Secretary of the Navy said, the patriotism and dedication to task he witnessed here is reminiscent of the effort undertaken just a few miles up the road at the Naval Shipyard more than 65 years ago when we fought a different enemy."
The keynote speaker was Paul Mann of the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. As joint program manager for the MRAP vehicles program, Mann leads the team responsible for procurement, fielding and sustainment of the MRAPs. Noting that he just returned Monday from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mann stressed the difference these vehicles are making in theater.
"With 7,000 MRAPs in two theaters, I saw your handiwork all over Iraq. Soldiers are leaving their bases in confidence in their MRAPs. It is really making a difference in the battle rhythm," he said.
"These MRAPs are a great tool for commanders and operational planners to get warfighters where they need to be to fight and win."
SSC Atlantic's MRAP integration program is a team effort with the Marine Corps Systems Command; the Defense Contract Management Agency; the U.S. Transportation Command, including the Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, 841st Transportation Battalion, Charleston Air Force Base, 437th and 315th Airlift Wings' aerial port; Charleston Naval Weapons Station; other systems center sites in San Diego and Norfolk; industry partners; and other DoD partners.
The MRAP family of vehicles provides operational forces with multiple mission-role platforms capable of mitigating IED, underbody mines and small arms fire threats.
The MRAP platforms include a suite of government-furnished equipment to help warfighters be successful on the battlefield. SSC Atlantic oversees the integration and installation work after the vehicles are accepted from the manufacturers.
The MRAP team also performs interoperability testing and hands the vehicles over to USTRANSCOM, which orchestrates transportation of the vehicles from South Carolina to the Middle East.
The MRAP integration program went from inception to full rate production in a little over a year. What started out as just a few vehicle deliveries from manufacturers to SSC Atlantic's integration facility grew to more than 1,200 in subsequent months.
Initially integrating about five vehicles a day, the team ramped up to full rate production of 50 vehicles per day by early December 2007.
Since then the team has sustained that rate, and completed as many as 69 MRAPs in a single day.
By early May this year, they had integrated more than 7,000 MRAP vehicles. The 10,000th MRAP was integrated at the facility Aug. 1, 2008.
For more information, visit http://enterprise.spawar.navy.mil.