Home » Wars » Afghan Update » Retro Tech Shaving Hours Off Tedious Journeys in Afghanistan

Retro Tech Shaving Hours Off Tedious Journeys in Afghanistan

by John Reed on February 3, 2011

Here’s an example of low tech being put to good use in Afghanistan where, as we all know, the roads are less than ideal:

The Army has begun using giant, woven mats to make it easier to navigate over soft, sandy terrain where traction can be near zero. Such a simple solution has reduced transit time by as much as seven hours over some routes, according to the Army.

One unit, the 3rd Platoon “Distribution,” Company E, 1st Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, regularly makes painstaking trips through the deserts of Afghanistan to deliver supplies and recover damaged vehicles that are too heavy to be flown out by helicopter.

From an Army press release:

“We drove down from (FOB) Sharana to (FOB) Kushamond to drop off fuel and equipment, and picked up broken equipment and damaged trucks,” said Pvt. Justin Bosch, a gun truck driver with Distro platoon. “Then we took all the broken equipment back to (FOB) Sharana to be fixed.”

Terrain has proven the biggest obstacle in resupplying FOB Kushamond and has caused significant delays.

“Most of the roads are gravel and soft dirt,” said Staff Sgt. Lucas Pedigo, distribution platoon sergeant for 3rd Plt. “Only a few roads are (paved), so we have to go slow in some places and get creative in others so we don’t get trucks stuck or lose the (truck) loads.”

Pedigo came up with the quick solution was laying down the giant mats pictured above, allowing the trucks to skirt over the soft sand and saving precious time.

“This one area in our route is wide with deep, loose sand and a steep embankment on the other side,” said Pedigo. “Our trucks always get stuck there, but this time we used the mats, and instead of it taking eight hours to get the convoy across, it only took a little over an hour.”

Just goes to show that it’s not always the expensive, heavily tested and developed tech that’s key to making life easier in a combat zone (though, who knows how much those mats cost). Reminds me of the fact that dogs are still the top bomb detection tools in the war zone.

More pics after the jump:

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

blight February 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Also, if the terrain sucks how will "mat laying truck shows up ahead of the convoy"? You're suggesting that a convoy will break up into a well-ahead of time advanced guard, which has to dig a trench and emplace a mat by hand and get everything ready just in time for a convoy, especially when said truck is subject to the same terrain-based difficulties that necessitate the mat in the first place? This has to be somewhat more organized, maybe even permanent. It certainly doesn't sound very ad hoc.

Everyone giving me negative reviews should seriously read the article again. With these magic mats it still takes an hour to get to their destination. This is one seriously long trip. Two, it never says anywhere that these mats are temporary. There are pictures of men unrolling mats by hand, and there is no suggestion that these are repacked.

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Ben February 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Yes we are both making assumptions, but you are trying to prove the negative, when all I have to do is show that it is possible for a short mat to shave hours off a trip.
.
Imagine a route takes 1 hour to traverse, but requires the vehicles to ford a river. For vehicles that cannot ford the river, the detour to the nearest bridge adds 7 hours to the trip.
But if a 20 meter portable pontoon bridge was set up, then the trip would only be 1 hour.

Replace the river ford with a unstable sandy ridge, and replace the portable bridge, with a portable mat, and a possible use for a small length of mats is illustrated.

Also some of your points make no sense whatsoever…
1. A small truck carrying lightweight mats, and a truck carrying several tons of heavy equipment while pulling a trailer, aren't going to bog down in the same terrain. A pickup truck can climb a steeper hill than a Semi-trailer.

2. why would anyone airlift a truck carrying mats, when they could just airlift the mats without the truck. Since the pictures are of hand laid mats that are only delivered by truck, this would be even faster than the method shown in the pictures.
If the mats were as time consuming to lay as you suggest, why wouldn't they be using an airlift make the process as efficient as possible?

Reply

howard February 24, 2011 at 8:03 am

traction… that must be why some bright soul invented
TRACKED equipment…. that’s got to be the reason.

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