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Units and Soldiers encounter a wide range of equipment, training scenarios and even geography as they prepare for an overseas deployment.

From cultural awareness training to weapons qualifications and urban operations, commanders strive to put the best tools into the hands of their Soldiers during home-station training so they will stay safe and achieve success in combat.

Preparing for every combat possibility is no easy task, but Soldiers from forts Richardson and Wainwright now have a new training tool to help them survive explosions from improvised explosive devices, an all-too-common nemesis in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twelve Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles are on-hand in Alaska to help units learn to use them in combat.

Designed to protect crews from IEDs, underbody mines and small-arms fire threats, the vehicles have already impressed Soldiers from the 472nd Military Police Company, who will deploy to central Iraq early next year.

While many Soldiers here have heard about the MRAPs or may have seen them before, military policemen from the 472nd received first-hand experience during pre-deployment training last week at Fort Wainwright’s Pvt. Joseph P. Martinez Combined Arms Collective Training Facility.

“It’s more than what I was anticipating,” said Spc. Michael Sprague, 1st Platoon, 472nd. “These are totally new to me, but I really like them.”

Trainers praise the technology and say they believe the vehicles are making a huge impact in protecting Soldiers from the devastating IED blasts.

The key is in the unique design, V-shaped hull, which deflects blasts in an explosion, and other safety features, according to Mike Spires, MRAP instructor.

“When I know the troops are in these vehicles, I know they’re safe,” he said.

The promise of safety was a big draw for the 472nd Soldiers who gave MRAPs a big humbs up.

“I’m looking forward to training on the equipment and getting all the guys trained up,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Titus, squad leader, 2nd Platoon, 472nd. “Anything that keeps Soldiers safe is a good thing.”

The MRAPs took Soldiers through urban village settings, trails and other terrain to create a realistic experience, which is exactly what they wanted.

“We want to get a gist of everything we’ll encounter while deployed,” Titus said.

Tony Johns, site lead for MRAPs, said the 12 MRAPs will remain in Alaska and be divided between forts Richardson and Wainwright for home-station training of units preparing for upcoming deployments.

Soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska’s Fort Wainwright-based 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, will train with the vehicles next.

Johns said he is not surprised that USARAK Soldiers have become such big fans of the MRAPs.

“They are designed to protect Soldiers lives, and that’s what they do,” he said.