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Jay Hanna, top of photo, a field service representative and new-equipment trainer with Critical Solutions International, helps Spc. Jennifer Bach, 25, of Belleville, Ill., become familiar with driving a Husky at Hohenfels, Germany.

Jay Hanna, top of photo, a field service representative and new-equipment trainer with Critical Solutions International, helps Spc. Jennifer Bach, 25, of Belleville, Ill., become familiar with driving a Husky at Hohenfels, Germany. (Seth Robson / S&S)

HOHENFELS, Germany — The Husky mine-detecting vehicle has debuted in Europe at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, which took delivery of two machines last month.

The vehicles, which fire electrical pulses to detect metal in buried mines or roadside bombs, will be used to prepare engineers for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the vehicles are widely used. The new arrivals at the readiness center are the first based in Europe, according to Maj. Damon Knarr, who helps train engineers at Hohenfels.

Engineers at the center for pre-deployment exercises will use the Huskies to practice route-clearance missions and will learn how to maintain the machines, he said.

Jay Hanna, a field service representative and new-equipment trainer with Critical Solutions International, which manufactures the vehicles in cooperation with South African defense contractor RSD, said the Huskies deploy side panels that emit mine-detecting pulses.

The vehicles at Hohenfels include spare-wheel modules that enable mechanics to quickly replace the front or rear of the vehicle if it is damaged by a roadside bomb, he said.

There’s also a trailer that can be dragged behind a Husky to make sure it hasn’t missed a mine. The trailer will detonate any undiscovered mines and is likely only to sustain a damaged wheel that can be easily replaced if it’s hit, said Hanna, who worked with Huskies as a soldier in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

One of the first soldiers to train on the Huskies at Hohenfels — Sgt. Benjamin Arroyo, 36 — expects to deploy to Iraq later this year with the Bamberg-based 541st Engineer Company. The Puerto Rican worked with Huskies in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and 2005 to 2006, but said the new model features upgrades that he’s eager to become familiar with.

"They have four-wheel steering and an automatic fire extinguisher," he said. "The tire pressure can be adjusted from the cab, which can be handy for getting traction off-road."

Arroyo said his unit found a "daisy chain" roadside bomb of 155mm artillery rounds and a large weapons cache in Mosul in 2005 using the vehicle.

But he said he prefers other engineer route clearance vehicles such as the RG-31 — a heavily armored vehicle with good visibility — or the Buffalo, which features a robotic arm that engineers use to investigate possible roadside bombs.

"Some people like oranges and some like apples," Arroyo said. "I have a better view from the RG-31, and in the Buffalo I can use the (robotic) arm. Personally, I use my eyes more. After you get to know what you are looking for, and once you get to know an area, it is easy to spot what they (insurgents) do. When you move to another area, it is a different story and on the open road the Husky would be a primary means of detecting IEDs (improvised explosive devices)."

Another member of the 541st, Sgt. Harold Keiser, 26, of Phoenix, worked with the Husky for the first time at Hohenfels on Tuesday.

Keiser, a mechanic, said he likes that a Husky can be repaired on the spot after it is hit by a roadside bomb.

"In two hours it can be fixed and ready to roll again," he said.

The 541st doesn’t have any Huskies in Germany but Keiser said he expects to fall in on the vehicles when the unit arrives in Iraq later this year.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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