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Forty-four Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are on their way from Antwerp, Belgium, to Hohenfels, Germany, to help train troops heading downrange.

Saturday afternoon at a dock in Antwerp, an Army transportation unit began unloading the MRAPS, the first large shipment of the vehicles to Germany. They will be delivered to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

"We have a bunch of them coming in," said Robert Leon, an executive officer at the center. He said the MRAPs "are coming here so we can incorporate them into the training we do here."

The JMRC plans, coordinates and conducts exercises to prepare units for combat — particularly irregular warfare — and peacekeeping missions. Typically, units sent to Hohenfels are in line for a tour to Afghanistan or Iraq. The MRAP, which offers more protection than a Humvee, is becoming the vehicle of choice for these troops.

The armored vehicles will be transported overland by truck from the port in Antwerp to the pine forests of Hohenfels. Leon expects the delivery to be completed over the weekend.

In the past year or so, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has lobbied to increase the production of MRAPs. In Iraq and now Afghanistan, roadside bombs have been the leading cause of death and injury. Gates often notes that the casualty rates for servicemembers in a Humvee is three times greater than if they were in an MRAP.

Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military would be flying more MRAP vehicles into Afghanistan. Currently, there are more than 3,000 of them in country. The first wave of a lighter and more maneuverable version is due to arrive on the scene later this year, with the remainder coming in by spring.

The fleet of MRAPs that pulled up to the dock in Antwerp will be unloaded and forwarded to Hohenfels by the 598th Transportation Group, headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Martin Weteling, a unit spokesman, said the unloading process was expected to take four to six hours.

"It’s a standard operation for us," Weteling said.

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