Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 19, 2013

Multi-purpose vehicle: Tons of fun to be had with armored personnel carrier


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — A local sheriff’s department has an armored personnel carrier, and I want one, too. Last week, Assistant Managing Editor Charles Owens told me about a story on the McDowell County Commission’s website. The McDowell County Sheriff’s Department had recently acquired a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection (MRAP) armored personnel carrier. At 51,000 pounds, anyone driving this contraption could roll over my car and not notice.

I spoke to Sgt. James Muncy about this metal beast, and its features are impressive. No weapon you could buy over the counter — unless you shop in Afghanistan or Somalia — can penetrate this vehicle’s armor. It has bullet-resistant windows and bullet-resistant tires that can run flat if necessary, and it carries up to a dozen adults. The carrier even has six-wheel drive, an asset in this mountainous terrain.

I saw the contributed photograph sent by Cathy Patton at the county commission and felt that gut instinct that says, “I want one!”

If I had one of those MRAP vehicles, I would be the envy of anybody preparing for doomsday. Its sheer intimidation factor would keep any potential raiders well back. Seeing such a set of wheels would make them wonder what other nasty surprises I had in store. I could ignore zombie hoards by crushing the living dead under my tires. I definitely wouldn’t have to worry about hitting deer. Instead of calling my insurance agent and a body shop, I’d just get a hose and wash Bambi off.

Snowstorms wouldn’t be much of a bother, either. Six-wheel drive would let me reach remote areas I couldn’t even consider in my car. If folks needed groceries, I would have the world’s most secure delivery truck. When floods covered roads, I could ford them without much trouble. The sheriff’s department can use this vehicle to reach residents cut off by bad weather.

Another vehicle I wouldn’t mind having in my parking lot is the armored Humvee the McDowell sheriff’s department acquired last year through the military surplus program that gave them the MRAP vehicle. I got to take a ride in that Humvee when it arrived, and I quickly decided I wanted one, too. The doors alone weight about 700 pounds apiece. I was warned to be careful how I closed it if I didn’t want to leave some fingers on the parking lot.

My nephews A.J. and Alex play those military games like Black Ops, so I can imagine how much they would enjoy rip roaring across the countryside while blasting targets with a machine gun mounted on the roof.  A.J. is about to head for college. Imagine the reaction he would get if he parked that MRAP outside his dorm. Want to do a pizza run during a blizzard? No problem! Alex will soon be taking his driver’s ed classes. He could rack up his required miles in the armored Humvee. I’d remind him that unlike those Xbox games, he won’t get points for crushing other cars.

I have to admit that fuel would be a problem. I’m sure both that Humvee and the MRAP would drink enough fuel to satisfy Godzilla, but if I had enough money for armored vehicles, I’d have enough money to keep them on the road.

If I had enough money for two armored vehicles, why not start collecting them? Not long ago, I tried my hand at teaching English and decided it wasn’t for me. I was fortunate to find a job opening at the Daily Telegraph, but I had a couple of weeks to use up before returning to Mercer County. I was living in Henry County, Va., and one day I learned that a tank museum was located in Danville, Va.

The resulting day trip was memorable. Danville’s tank museum is located in a former factory with plenty of room for monster machines. I roamed the exhibits and saw vehicles I had only seen in movies and old photographs. The extensive collection included a German Panzer IV, a prominent tank during World War II. At the other end of the vast room was a Russian T-34 tank. It looks like something out of an amusement park when compared to modern tanks like the Abrams, but the Russians built them by the thousands.

By the time my tour was over, I wanted my own tank collection. That’s unrealistic on a reporter’s salary, so I started collected diecast models. My collection gives me a lot of enjoyment, but I can’t help wondering what I would buy if I won a big jackpot.

Then it would be time for the big toys. I’d shop for a German Tiger tank and see if any surplus Abrams tanks were available. I know the Soviet Union had a going-out-of-business sale when it broke apart, so maybe I could get some Russian tanks and some of those huge helicopters featured in the Rambo movies.

Naturally, I would open my collection to the public and lend vehicles to Veterans Day and Christmas parades. I’d have to hold back the bigger tanks. Their treads would churn up the pavement.

I know I’ll drive an armored personnel carrier only in my dreams, but maybe I’ll get to see one in action some day and even take a ride.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.