Author Topic: Military use of Gators outside fortified bases  (Read 14433 times)

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Offline Teddy Ruxpin

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Military use of Gators outside fortified bases
« on: June 21, 2007, 17:35:01 »
Fair dealings, blah, blah, blah

http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/227826

Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
The unarmoured Gator should never have been allowed to travel on roads of Kandahar

June 21, 2007
Rosie Dimanno
Columnist

It's little more than the military version of a putt-putt buggy and no reason imaginable exists for the go-devil venturing off-base.

The open-top all-terrain vehicle – makes the thing sound far more sophisticated than it is – in which three Canadian soldiers were killed yesterday should never have been on the dangerous roads of Kandahar.

This is a conveyance used by troops for on-site transportation, meaning short excursions inside areas protected by snipers, high-tech sensors, sandbag bunkers and armed sentries.

It is no match for a roadside bomb.

Either someone got tragically careless or standing operational orders are catastrophically out of sync with realities on the ground in southern Afghanistan. Either way, it's difficult to reconcile with the intense security arrangements by which Canadian troops live – and die – in Kandahar.

Resupply convoys that service forward operating bases and power points – often including transport trucks and personnel carriers – don't move an inch outside compounds unless covered by heavily armed escort vehicles. It is staggeringly incomprehensible, a catastrophic lapse in judgment, that the unarmed wagon known as a Gator – little different from a John Deere tractor – was allowed to leave the safety of Sperwan Ghar in order to resupply a checkpoint, if the description of events is correct.

Sperwan Ghar is a strongly fortified satellite west of Kandahar City, just south of the Arghandab River. On the other side is Zhari District, site of fierce fighting last summer between coalition forces and the neo-Taliban but also a region that remains perilous as insurgent cadres move around.

Earlier yesterday, Canadian and Afghan soldiers battled insurgents in Zhari for four hours. Combat there arose as a result of Operation Season, intended to disrupt the Taliban presence and subdue ambushes against allied forces and Afghan police along Highway 1.

Sperwan Ghar is a stone's throw from that area. It's no place to be out in the open in a vulnerable dune buggy when enemy forces are targeting coalition troops.

This one was allegedly travelling along a track between two Canadian checkpoints when it struck the IED. Sperwan Ghar reaches out in tentacles to power-point studs and police checkpoints – the lonely outposts manned largely by Afghan police and Afghan National Army soldiers.

Canadian troops routinely patrol highway segments, but always, in this reporter's experience, in at least modest force. Canadian troops, often on foot, regularly check the tarmac and berms for planted devices. Radar and thermal imaging also keeps 24-hour guard for movement within a considerable range.

"A determined enemy clearly was able to penetrate the defences and the observation in the area to plant this device,'' Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, commander of Canadian forces in Kandahar, told reporters yesterday.

Grant said the vehicle had been struck between two checkpoints a short distance apart, six kilometres west of Sperwan Ghar. He rejected media speculation that the region was an inappropriate venue for the Gator, a vehicle most commonly used for shuttling provisions and equipment up the steep hill at Ghundy Ghar and across the expanse of Sperwan Ghar.

"This vehicle has been used regularly to do resupply missions between some of the checkpoints outside of the forward operating bases,'' said Grant.

Those who've spent time in the region know that this is simply untrue. It is, at minimum, a rarity for the Gator to be used for that purpose. Commanders have more sense than exposing soldiers that way. Sixty Canadian troops have now died in Afghanistan, improvised explosive devices responsible for a third of those casualties.

Yet Grant insisted the Gator was fit for the task, with the terrain – compounds of high mud dwellings amidst poppy fields – unsuitable for larger, armoured vehicles. But Nyalas can manoeuvre almost everywhere, with the exception of narrow village pathways. A review of procedures and equipment used will be conducted, Grant added.

"If we determine that we need to change our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will do that," he said

"But at the current time, we look at this as an unfortunate accident.''

No, it was most decidedly not an accident. It was a blast from the enemy.



I'm somewhat annoyed by this.  The reporter in question has written some decent pieces from theatre and has proven to be a fairly rational and unbiased source, but this is a bit over the top.

The reporter is out of her lane.  She has no idea - zero - of what drove the tactical decision by commanders on the ground to employ the vehicle in question.  She has not been in the exact location where the attack occurred and has no professional credentials - aside from a couple of trips to theatre - to support any of her conclusions.  She is engaging in speculation that will undoubtedly fuel more controversy; indeed, her comments may be designed to do just that.

If mistakes were made, the chain of command will investigate, identify, and address them.  Determining whether a tactical decision was "careless" or "catestrophically out of sync" is hardly a reporter's job and is hardly the role of the media.  Leave the job of soldiering to soldiers, if you please. 

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Offline Sheep Dog AT

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 17:44:29 »
" zero - of what drove the tactical decision by commanders on the ground to employ the vehicle in question.  She has not been in the exact location where the attack occurred and has no professional credentials"

I think that is relevant to all not just her and that is why I haven't said anything on the subject.  Not many know the area as it is now, nor the atmosphere, or the thinking behind the decision to use the vehicle.
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Offline regulator12

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 17:45:16 »
I personally think she makes some good points and would not feel safe travelling in that vehicle and would really protest against it.

Offline Zip

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 18:25:52 »
I personally think she makes some good points and would not feel safe travelling in that vehicle and would really protest against it.

What are you proposing you would do, call your shop steward? Have a sit in? Tell 'em No? Stamp your feet like you really mean it?

The people who are paid to make these decisions are the ones who get to make them, people like you and I are the ones who get to follow them.  Someone somewhere did a risk analysis on this.  That someone probably walked that road more than once and I'm willing to bet there was more than a moments pause when he/she made the call to use the Gator. 

What do you think the trade offs examined would entail?  Perhaps the choice was a Gator or draw an armoured vehicle like a Coyote or LAV III from active operations to drive the "couple of hundred meters" between checkpoints.  Maybe using anything bigger would have created more of a target.

We don't know, but I do know what my reaction would be to a "protest"  :rage:



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Offline cplcaldwell

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2007, 19:14:16 »
One of the things that (I think) is really tragic in this piece is that the reporter in question seems absolutely ignorant of the nature of the conflict and how the enemy is adapting and evolving tactics.

A while ago they were blowing up G-Wagens, then Nyalas, then LAV's. But if one looks at the whole history one begins to see that the enemy never sustains this effort for very long. This may be for two reasons, first they cannot sustain it because the proper intel and subsequent lessons learned are applied, second their main aim, to turn the public against the effort by using media is minimised after a few such (similar) attacks.

In the first case I suspect it's because the troops are savvy enough to anticipate the situations and because the commanders make the proper adjustments to routing, timing, equipment and other tactical considerations.

In the second case they seem to be succeeding, at least at generating the media reports. I doubt very much that the argument "Either someone got tragically careless or standing operational orders are catastrophically out of sync with realities on the ground in southern Afghanistan" could be sustained under any scrutiny; but it sells papers and raises the hackle of the uninitiated. (Take a look at the Globe and Mail blog on this one.. hilarious ( in a sad sort of way)... I thought that it would have been a lot tamer than that as I thought most of that lot would have been at Stonehenge today buying tie-dye t's and chanting.. oh well)

But then again it is the luxury of the press to be able to stand up and wag a finger whenever an improbable event happens; it's like every possible permutation and combination must be foreseen or else someone is incompetent.

I'll bet that the enemy will find operating procedures are changed, very soon. Whether that means getting rid of the gators is someone else's call. (Someone eminently more qualified than me or Ms DiManno).

In any event the enemy will find this kind of 'operation' will be unsuccessful, impossible or very costly in the near future.

I doubt that a 'one off' indicates incompetence, if it becomes a trend, well then maybe some questions should be asked.

This will be/has been the nature of this conflict for a while now and will continue to be so. The end game will be when the ANA and ANP can stand up by themselves and when the people turn against the talibs. The people will inevitably turn against them as they become empowered and as the enemy, unable to strike decisively against NATO, turn to 'soft' civilian targets; they are already hinting at it.

At that point they will no longer be guerrillas or insurgents, they will be marginalized enough to be seen as the thugs and murderers that they have been, essentially, all along.

« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 19:29:48 by cplcaldwell »
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Offline Teddy Ruxpin

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2007, 19:38:03 »
" zero - of what drove the tactical decision by commanders on the ground to employ the vehicle in question.  She has not been in the exact location where the attack occurred and has no professional credentials"

I think that is relevant to all not just her and that is why I haven't said anything on the subject.  Not many know the area as it is now, nor the atmosphere, or the thinking behind the decision to use the vehicle.

Exactly right, and that's why I won't either.  As I've posted before, it is a very dangerous thing to armchair quarterback and to second-guess tactical decisions made by commanders on the scene - especially when none of us were there and none of us have, by definition, any knowledge of the local situation.  Anything posted or printed by anyone not in theatre right now is pure speculation.

Regulator12:  I assume, based on your remarks, that you're currently attached to the callsign that suffered the casualties and know exactly what happened?  ::)
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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2007, 20:30:51 »
Not unless he's home on leave. [HTLA?]  Someday I must remeber all these acronyms. :-[
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Offline regulator12

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2007, 23:12:00 »
No i was and am not in that unit. I simply was saying i would not feel safe in that vehicle. Obviously i can not say what happened because i am not there but we are all entitled to our opinions. So i will obviously keep them to myself as i can see that this will start a verbal war if i express them.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2007, 00:32:14 »
It's pretty clear that the media, and others, have been sucked into thinking that more armour = greater safety. Safety lies in concluding the fighting as soon as possible and rebuilding the nation. As a wise CSM once told me "The safest place on the battlefield is the objective". RIP troops.
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Offline MikeM

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2007, 00:56:48 »
Regulator, you've made a wise decision to clam up, comment on what you have experienced and know.


Offline Carcharodon Carcharias

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2007, 04:58:46 »

I simply was saying i would not feel safe in that vehicle.


During my time in Iraq, I never felt safe in any vehicle. I often used to ride in US Gators going from their part of the FOB to ours, often on the scrounge for each other.

Even around the IZ in an uparmoured F-250 or SUV, same thing, never safe, and in a LAV, out in the RZ, the word safe is the last word on my mind. Staying focused for snipers, complex attacks with SA and RPGs, frags, and the worst thing which haunts me still is the IED/VBIED/SVBIED threat, and even worse is the EFP threat. All very real, and we simply were lucky. Yes it was luck, good INT on where not to go, but luck/fate and chance is what saved us.

Going on 3 months home, and I will not drive over coke cans, and I see 'sus' things on or along the road all the time, and thats the 1st thing that comes to mind, 'sus'.

I, like others all over the Free West have a very heavy heart about the loss of more soldiers. Many may ask how did the bad guys get inside the wire, why were they not noticed? These questions may never be answered, but what can we do to help prevent it from happening again.

Was this IED command detonated? Victim detonated or a PIR sensor used perhaps? Thats may indeed come out, and some type of countermeasure may end up in new TTPs. Mourn for their loss, yes, but let us learn from their unnecessary and untimely deaths.

The media will continue to sensationalise a story, milk it for what its worth for shock value and ratings, warping and manipulating the truth to suit them, well forgetting that those men had familes, and they were more than just another guy in green. 

I always avoided the media like a plague, and dreaded every time they showed up in our locality. We all did.

MINI RANT ON:

As for REGULATOR12's comment in an earlier post on 'protesting', thats just plain piss weak. Its a war, and people die on both sides. Risks are everywhere, even while in/on the toilet. I remember those 122mm Katyusha rockets very well, landing willy-nilly anywhere at random at any time.

An attitude like that will get you ostracised by your own men, and you'll end up getting sent home with your tail between your legs. Protest! If I heard one of my guys say that there, I'd ask him if he wanted to see the Padre. I think of the shyte that I (and we) had to endure there, and then I hear a yellow comment like that on here. Well, that sends me. Shake your head REG12 and sort yourself out.

You may indeed be in the wrong profession. Don't think that at times we were not scared, or that I never questioned (in my mind) the at times unrealistic orders of a Jr Offr. I did what i was told without question, was professional, and got the job done as best we could. A few words of advice, go hard or simply, go home. Perhaps a job less stressful is in order.

MINI RANT OFF.

Regards from a cold winter night in the tropics,


Wes
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 05:19:39 by Wesley Down Under »
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Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2007, 11:02:55 »
Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
Updated Fri. Jun. 22 2007 10:47 AM ET Canadian Press
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Canadian military has suspended the use of Gator all-terrain vehicles outside secure compounds in Afghanistan after a roadside bomb killed three soldiers.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker says the roadside bomb attack shows the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar isn't as safe as the military believed.

Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, Corporal Stephen Bouzane and Private Joel Wiebe were killed Wednesday when the bomb blasted the Gator vehicle they were riding between checkpoints.

The army had said the open-top vehicles with no armour were the only option in the area to transfer supplies because of the rocky terrain.

Soldiers on foot patrol were replaced with the Gators because the military believed the district was secure from insurgent attack after months of combat operations and reconstruction work.

Walker, who commands Canada's battle groups in Afghanistan, says the question now is whether the attack signals a move by insurgents to target Canadian forces more directly.
More on link
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Offline Colin P

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2007, 11:05:13 »
I suspect these ATV's have less ground pressure than the human foot, correct?

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Re: Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2007, 11:06:52 »
Of course they did.

whats that called when someone taps your knee with a rubber hammer....Reflexive Jerk

So now the boys wil have to walk again...and it was only +45 in the shade today in the Kandahar area
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Re: Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2007, 11:20:30 »
Agreed that this is a complete reflex by the CF. Infantry are just as open to attack as any vehicle (aside from being slightly more quiet and camouflaged). They are also just as likely to trip a mine set by insurgents if they are on foot. What the CF has done here won't do much more than burn the poor guys out in 50+ degree weather.
Despite the cost of living, it seems to be quite popular.

Offline Rider Pride

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2007, 11:21:13 »
I suspect these ATV's have less ground pressure than the human foot, correct?

That is a good question.

But I believe it would not have made a difference as the most common non remote detonated type of IED in the area is a Pressure Plate (PPIED). Most are made with old metal saw blades separated by about 1 cm. Any weight on the top will make the connection and set off the mine (which is what they are).

If we are playing the second guessing game....what happened to the good old armoured Gwagons for this kind of movement? I don't know of anyone who would willingly walk 2 km when there is a veh, any veh, avail to drive them.

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Re: Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2007, 11:22:57 »
Could we send wagons over in the Care Packages?
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Offline FinClk

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Re: Military suspends use of Gators outside bases
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2007, 11:23:56 »
Aside from assessing the safety issue to the troops, this knee jerk reaction is common when faced with media based pressures. Had they not the media would be in the process of crucifying them.

Offline Twitch

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2007, 11:33:45 »
I don't know of anyone who would willingly walk 2 km when there is a veh, any veh, avail to drive them.
I might be a bit out of my lane on this one as I have never been to A-Stan but putting myself in the deployed troop's shoes, it would be easy to say "I'll be fine just this once. It's only 2km."

Then again, if a human foot can set it off just as easily, it wouldn't have mattered. 

RIP Troops  :salute:
Despite the cost of living, it seems to be quite popular.

Offline MJP

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2007, 11:38:09 »
If we are playing the second guessing game....what happened to the good old armoured Gwagons for this kind of movement? I don't know of anyone who would willingly walk 2 km when there is a veh, any veh, avail to drive them.



Remember in another knee jerk reaction we forbid those vehicles from leaving the wire as well?  (insert sarcastic voice) Pretty soon we'll all be stuck in the wire waiting for choppers to takes us in as NO vehicle will be allowed outside the wire due to the extreme IED threat
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2007, 11:47:36 »
This is exactly what happend in the border areas in NI. The IRA became so effective at blowing us up with great big IEDs that all patrol movement was conducted either on foot or by chopper. Would this be acceptable in A-Stan? Not likely, given the distances and conditions there.
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Offline Babbling Brooks

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2007, 11:55:31 »
I'm with Teddy on this, and delved into not only DiManno's piece, but also coverage from CTV, the Sun, and the Globe & Mail on this issue at my own site.

The one notable exception to the media feeding frenzy on this came from Graeme Smith yesterday, in an article entitled "Guards felt comfortable with Gators" that reinforces some of the points made here.  What a novel idea: talking directly to soldiers about how they do their jobs.  I'll quote at length:

Quote
Soldiers preparing for their guard shift at Sperwan Ghar were very unhappy one day last month when their Gator broke down. The small all-terrain vehicle, manufactured by John Deere in Welland, Ont., looked out of place among the hulking military equipment arrayed on the steep hillside where Canadians and their allies have carved out a strategic base in Panjwai district. One of the nearby Leopard tanks could probably have crushed the little six-wheeled ATV if it got in the way.

But for the young men who make the tiresome trips back and forth between their bunkers on the hill and the guard posts below, it was essential to keep the Gator chugging.

One soldier refused even to consider the idea of hiking out to his next watch shift on foot, saying it was too hot to carry supplies down the hill. He turned the starter over and over, producing a sickly moan from the dust-clogged engine, but no ignition. Cheers broke out among the troops when one of them coaxed the Gator back to life. The next shift of guards roared down the path and disappeared in the dust.

During a journalist's recent visit to the base, none of the soldiers mentioned feeling afraid when riding the open-topped Gators to their watch posts. The zone around Sperwan Ghar is monitored by powerful surveillance equipment, and 2007 has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of violent incidents around the forward operating base, about 35 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. The trip between posts was viewed as an easy ride, safely in the shadow of the hill.
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Offline Bob Terwilliger

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2007, 12:05:11 »
The gist of her article, while a tad shrill, I believe is essentially correct. If one examines the overall number of IED fatalities amongst Canadian troops, its clear that IEDs present by far the largest threat. There is no reason why resupply between OPs should be done with what is essentially a lawn tractor with a coat of OD paint. There is no protection whatsoever for the occupants of that vehicle, and its use should be stopped.

Offline Colin P

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #23 on: June 22, 2007, 12:30:40 »
Then what?

You will have to build a road to get the LAV's, Nyala, G-wagons there. Which means more equipment needs to be moved in, which means more fuel, more time, more food, more security, which then means more equipment, more food, more fuel, more, etc,etc

There is no perfect answer. Perhaps the main issue was the lack of alternative routes that allowed the enemy to see a pattern, but even then, sometimes life is like that and you can't have the perfect tactical scenario. Perhaps the lesson is that when geography requires the continued use of a route, sniper teams and ambush teams need to watch likely ambush places and perhaps can be used to lure the enemy to such areas to be engaged.

All those that think getting rid of the gator should first put on full military gear, plus armour, weapon, food & water, then strap on 60-80lbs of supplies and slow jog in a dry sauna for 8 hours, while throwing talcum powder in their faces every 10 minutes.

Offline Pencil Tech

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Re: The Star: Vehicle no match for a roadside bomb
« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2007, 12:39:25 »
Look, I don't think it's surprising that the public, or Rosie di Manno for that matter, don't understand why the troops were in a Gator. People see it as a vehicle, and they see a LAV or a Nyala as a vehicle, and can't understand why they weren't in a vehicle that offered some protection vice one that offers none. In one TV report last night, LCol Eyre actually explained pretty effectively that the Gator was being used in a situation where the troops would normally be marching and carrying a large amount of kit on their backs and the Gator basically makes that kind of task easier. Obviously they'd be just as vulnerable if they were humping on foot (and I think the public know that soldiers do that), but the public naturally sees this as a flashback to the Iltis, and so on. Unfortunately the department as a whole is doing what it so often does: banning the vehicle instead of giving a comprehensible explanation of why the Gator is useful and appreciated by the troops who use it.