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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

This `Monster' of a Humvee in Iraq Has Life-Saving Feature

April 02, 2006|From the Associated Press

RAMADI, Iraq — The 21-year-old gunner was standing atop the turret of a Humvee called Frankenstein's Monster when a bomb exploded on the ground beside him, sending a wave of sizzling shrapnel and ball bearings toward his head.

Knocked down inside his vehicle by the blast, Spc. Richard Sugai regained consciousness minutes later and realized he was lucky to be alive. His savior: a glass cocoon of 2-inch-thick bulletproof windshields he had welded around the top of his turret three days earlier.

Troops mockingly call the modification "Pope Glass" because it brings to mind the vehicle with a glass box that the late Pope John Paul II used after being wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981.

The jury-rigged protection has become a signature on the turrets of Humvees across the main U.S. base in Ramadi, where troops are finding ways to add more protection against snipers' rifles, small-arms fire and roadside bombs.

"I would have been gone if that glass hadn't been there," Sugai said. "I probably wouldn't have a head."

The Vermont National Guard's Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor Regiment, was the first to start using the Pope Glass. One of its support soldiers, 44-year-old Spc. Scott Betit, added the protective box to a Humvee with a colleague's help after his initial run through Ramadi in late July.

"It was really uncomfortable keeping myself above the turret that first time. I felt exposed," said Betit, of White Creek, N.Y., standing beside his Humvee, its glass shield adorned by an image of Snoopy in a red scarf manning a machine gun. "When I put the glass on, everybody was like, what the hell is this guy doing? But then they started asking for it."

The idea soon spread throughout Alpha Company and other units.

The added glass -- fashioned from three Humvee front windshields welded above the steel ring around the sides of the gunner's turret -- are roughly 18 inches high. Alpha Company commanders say the glass has spared seven gunners from either death or severe head injuries over the last six months.

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