Monday, January 12, 2004

Humvees have become a regular target for roadside bombs planted by Iraqi insurgents, so who better to call on to strengthen U.S. military vehicles against future blasts than Iraqis themselves.

While driving through the Kurdish-controlled northern city of Kirkuk several months ago, Master Sgt. Dana Watson, 43, of St. Johns, Mich., came up with the idea to seek local assistance when he spotted men at a metal works shop grinding and welding pieces of steel.

"I went to these guys with the design to fit our vehicles with some kind of reinforced steel and asked if they could build a prototype," Watson, a combat engineer with the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, said recently. "They said they could, and after making a bid for the project, they won the tender."

The winning company, which belongs to Kirkuk businessman Delshat Peerot Aziz, has built and installed 8mm thick steel casings in the rear compartments of 100 Humvees and other vehicles where gun-toting soldiers sit. It also fitted new doors made of the same material onto each of the vehicles.

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