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FORT McCOY — Army reservists began training on the first 60 joint light tactical vehicles in Army Reserve Military at the Fort McCoy Draw Yard.

The JLTV, built by Oshkosh Defense in contract with the Department of Defense, will eventually replace the Humvee, a vehicle used for more than 20 years by the military, and costs roughly $.5 million each, according to Army personnel. A total of 1,809 vehicles were contracted to be produced and delivered to the military.

“The JLTV has three things over the Humvee,” said Michael Zinnecker, officer in charge at the Fort McCoy Draw Yard. “The ‘iron triangle’: payload, protection and performance. So basically, they can run circles around the Humvees. They’re bigger, better, faster.”

The 88th Readiness Division at Fort McCoy is one of the first divisions in the Army to get access to the new vehicles, with only one active duty unit that had access to them prior.

“That means a lot,” Zinnecker said. “The faith that the Army Reserve Command has here in what we do in operations.”

The vehicles are equipped with a self-elevating hydraulics system that allows it to travel over different terrain, can carry more weight and, according to Zinnecker, can save lives of passengers in combat areas.

JLTVs come in four different platforms that can be used as close combat vehicles, heavy gunners, utility and general purpose. The first 60 JLTVs to be released for training to Fort McCoy are heavy gunners.

JLTV

The 88th Readiness Division at Ft. McCoy is one of the first military units to gain access to the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles for training purposes in the country.

“So really, anything the Humvee can do right now, they’re gonna do and then some,” Zinnecker said. “They can handle most of our weapons systems.”

Sgt. Michael Archey, an Army Reservist who served on active duty for six years and deployed to Iraq during that time, said he’s excited to get access to the new vehicles.

“It can literally climb a mountain,” Archey said. “There’s also some thermal imaging mechanisms going on in the front so you can see, thermally, what’s going on in front of you based upon the heat from people and enemy vehicles.”

Archey works as a civilian firefighter with the Philadelphia Fire Department when he isn’t training on long weekends at the Fort McCoy Draw Yard as a mechanic.

The Draw Yard was a pilot program, the first of its kind developed by the U.S. Army Reserve Command and driven by the 88th Readiness Division to train units from around the country. The yard currently houses 1,700 pieces of equipment that equals out to roughly $110 million.

That equipment runs the gamut, from generators to medium-size tactical vehicles to ground scrapers and bulldozers for large engineering projects. On a yearly basis, Fort McCoy issues out about 1,500 pieces of equipment on a schedule that rotates to fit a unit’s training platform. The JLTV requires a minimum of 40 hours of training before a solider is considered licensed to use the vehicle.

Zinnecker hopes the pilot program will expand to other Army training facilities in California and Kentucky in the near future.

Units travel from around the country, including Puerto Rico and Guam, to train at Fort McCoy, a process that saved the military more than $14 million in equipment transportation costs since the Draw Yard’s inception in 2017, Zinnecker said.

“Now that we’re fully operational, that will be close to $10 million a year” in savings, he said.

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Data, interactive and video journalist

Elizabeth Beyer is the agriculture, data, interactive, audio and video journalist with the La Crosse Tribune.

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