Heavy-Duty Trucks of the
Marine Motor Pool

When it came time to showcase the world's most extreme machines, our search concluded once we came across the United States Marine Corps' fleet of trucks and all-terrain vehicles. Besides operating extra-large and seriously heavy-duty trucks, the USMC is also home to some of the most technologically-advanced rides on the planet. Whereas the candy paint, DVD players, and chrome wheels might be missing, what they lack in appearance, they more than make up for in substance.

Operating in some of the most challenging conditions in the world, the extreme machines of the United States Marine Corps must overcome harsh terrain, high temperatures, and quite possibly the most dangerous circumstances of any vehicle. It may surprise you then to find out that there isn't a team of NASCAR mechanics on duty, but rather highly-trained young Marines at the ready to repair these extreme machines and get them back into duty with little downtime. Sure they get to blow stuff up, drive over most obstacles, and man machine guns while cruising, but we wanted to know what really made the Marine's rides extreme.

Special Thanks To:
M1A1 Abram Tank crew
Tank Commander - Sgt. Allen R. Williams
Gunner - Cpl. Allen Villaflores
Loader - Pfc. Richard D. Falconbury
Driver - Pfc. Wesley A. Sims

M88A2 Tank Retriever crew
Vehicle Commander - Sgt. Brandon L. Gray
Rigger - LanceCpl. Justin M. Theriault
Driver - LanceCpl. Aaron J. Reisenaur

Getting a hold of the USMC Public Affairs office, we asked for some insight into what the Marines drive and wrench on day and night. What we got was an all-access pass to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located in Twentynine, Palms, California. After the initial shock of actually being allowed on base to get an inside-look at these machines, we strapped on our camera gear and started taking notes.

Arriving at 1100 with temperatures already reaching triple-digits, we took a quick desert survival course in which we promised not to die, received a brief overview of the MCAGCC, and then took a trip to meet the motor pool team. It was interesting to see just how young the core group of motor pool mechanics were, yet despite their age, knowledge of the Humvee, seven-ton personnel carrier, and large Oshkosh tow trucks was evident. These guys keep the Corps running, literally. While there, we saw engines being swapped, hydraulic systems being replaced, and even On-Board Diagnostic systems with laptops being inspected and new software downloaded. Working on these trucks appears to be a privilege; after all, it's these vehicles that will keep Marines alive and doing their jobs without any fear of breaking down.

Moving on, we quickly went from large 5-ton Humvees to huge 64-ton M1A1 Abram tanks with enough technology to make even the most diehard truck fan camo green with envy. Stats like a 1,500hp turbine engine, six-speed transmission, the use of a ballistic fire-control computer, thermal and night vision, and a long list of insane firepower are just a sample of things that made us grin from ear-to-ear. Add to that the M88 tank recovery vehicle with its twin-turbo engine, 35-ton A-frame boom, and front-mounted spade, and you get some serious all-terrain rigs that keep Marines busy fighting for freedom.

Finishing up with the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team, we quickly realized that perhaps the Marine Public Affairs Office had saved the best for last, because we finally found a vehicle with air conditioning. Weighing in at more than 33 tons, the massive six-wheeled Cougar MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) beast uses extra-thick armor to protect the EOD Marines, incorporates the latest in surveillance technology (yes, it's classified, no we're not going to tell you), and even a special remote robot codenamed Raptor to aid in the unmanned investigation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Its presence is awe-inspiring, as it looks completely intimidating and unstoppable thanks to solid-rubber tires weighing in at 750 pounds each, a V-shaped hull to deflect bomb blasts, and solid welds throughout.

As we hopped back into our Ford F-150, we looked for the .50-caliber machine gun, but it wasn't to be found, and although we tried to find the night-vision viewfinder, it too was missing. Seems that our tricked-out street truck was only so-so in comparison to what the Marines called their daily drivers. Too bad really, we could have used that Abram's 120mm smoothbore gun while stuck in traffic returning to Anaheim.

Oshkosh MK25 Cargo Truck
It's not mom's minivan, but rolling on six 20-inch wheels, six-wheeled independent suspension, and antilock brakes, this Oshkosh MK25 cargo truck may be the perfect truck needed to haul around Marines. A Caterpillar diesel, Allison seven-speed transmission, and 14 foot cargo bed ensure whatever needs to be carried, will be.

AM General Humvee (high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle)
A 4WD tactical vehicle that has 15 different configurations and 44 interchangeable parts for quick repairs by Marine mechanics. This M1151A1 has new body armor, 4-inch-thick bulletproof glass, and a top turret with multiple weapon options. The interior won't win any truck shows, but it will get Marines back to base.

Abrams Tank
With a cost of around 4 million dollars, you could buy 15 new and loaded Escalades, but they would be loaded with heated seats and stuff, whereas the Abram tank is loaded with other things--120m smoothbore cannon, .50-caliber machine gun, two M240 machine guns, and two eight-barreled smoke grenade launchers. Imagine pulling up to the truck show in this bad boy?

M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicle
Codenamed the "Hercules", the M88A2 is an armored recovery vehicle that specializes in the repair and extrication of Abram tanks in the field. During live-fire situations, the M88A2 can attach its 70-ton winch to the Abram and tow it to safety for repairs and in safe situations, it can use its large A-frame boon to lift 35 tons (with its spade down). This means an entire tank turret or engine can be removed and replaced in a matter of minutes. The .50-caliber machine gun is at the ready in case the Hercules needs to defend itself.

Cougar MRAP Vehicle
Ready for the Marine Corps Ball, this Marine demonstrates the $20,000+ bomb suit designed to keep Marines alive when they have to exit one of their MRAPs.

Built for the EOD team, the massive six-wheeled Cougar MRAP is a serious piece of machinery. The Marines told us that besides the strength it requires to drive, it is by far their favorite rig. Constant fresh air recirculation, optical technologies, and extreme body armor make the MRAP a mobile science lab for the EOD Marines to investigate and disarm threats.

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