The Aug. 15 article “Inflated Impact? Tally of lives saved by MRAPs lowered” on the inflated “lifesaving” numbers misses the point. Yes, given a large enough improvised explosive device, people will still die no matter how well-armored the vehicle. But the greatest cost to the services in war isn’t death, it’s disability.
In 2011-12 the wounded outnumber the fatalities by about 8 to 1. In my observations serving as an engineer brigade surgeon in Afghanistan, the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle greatly reduces disability. That doesn’t mean that no one gets hurt from an IED, but it’s often a less severe hurt.
If an MRAP drives over a large IED, it will be thrown in the air — subjecting the crew to rapid acceleration then rapid deceleration when it lands. A few typical injuries are concussions, fractures, herniated discs as well as numerous minor injuries. A Humvee (HMMV) drives over the same IED and the same things happen, with many of the same injuries (the heavier, V-hulled MRAP doesn’t get thrown as high). But what makes the HMMV-vs.-IED so much worse is that the blast and shrapnel rip through the vehicle, causing penetrating trauma to the crew. Before you can begin to treat their herniated disc or concussion you’ve got to stop their bleeding, sew up their bowels, amputate what’s left of their leg, and drain the blood from their punctured lung. The MRAP crew compartments are usually intact, protecting the crew from most shrapnel injuries.
In the short term this means we can fix a lot of these injuries and return the soldiers to duty. Training replacements is not free. In the long run we’re going to save more in disability costs from the reduction in penetrating trauma.
How many lives the MRAP has saved is difficult to measure. The enemy has tried to counter better vehicles with bigger IEDs. Measuring the cost effectiveness of the MRAP has to factor in the reduction in disability as well as lives saved.
We should keep the MRAP, it’s worth the price tag.