A recent report on the Multi-National Force-Iraq web site told the story of an individual’s idea that is now saving lives in the combat environment of Iraq. The Army News Service picked up the story on January 16, sharing the idea with the rest of the military.
According to the report, one of the top killers of soldiers in Iraq has been the inability to escape from Humvees, the wheeled vehicle replacement for the long-time Army staple jeep that have rolled over and landed in one of Iraq’s many irrigation canals.
When an armored vehicle is upside down or on its side, according to the report, it can sometimes take up to three soldiers to get a door open wide enough for people to get out. That task becomes nearly impossible if the door is stuck in mud.
Bill Del Solar, safety officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division is quoted as saying, “If you go into a canal, there’s a really good chance you won’t come out alive.” Del Solar is credited with developing a new device, called the Rat Claw, to help soldiers trapped inside Humvees.
The Rat Claw is a flat, steel hook used to pull open a Humvee door, or if necessary, remove the door completely. “If you get a little momentum, you can pull anything off,” Del Solar is quoted as saying. According to the report, a typical door opening with the Rat Claw takes less than a minute, though really tough cases could take up to three minutes. Three minutes is a long time when you’re trapped, but Del Solar is reported as saying that the human brain can go three to four minutes without oxygen before suffering damage. “It’s a reasonable amount of time for a rescue,” Del Solar said in the report.
The Army News Service reported a recent case where the Rat Claw was used by the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. After a Humvee had flipped open from an improvised explosive device, soldiers used the Rat Claw to open the vehicle for the passengers to get out. One of those passengers was the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Infanti.
“I remember I was pinned inside the truck,” Infanti is reported to have said. “Fuel was dripping on me. I was in pain, but the soldiers did extremely well and the Rat Claw worked. It took one try and I was out of the vehicle. Honestly, I don’t know how they would’ve gotten me out with the equipment we had on hand, if we didn’t have the Rat Claw,” Infanti said.
Information for this article was obtained from “Safety Officer’s Invention Saves Humvee-Trapped Soldiers,” by Specialist Chris McCann, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.