G-Wagon saves lives ..


Three Canadian soldiers and a journalist injured by a bomb in Afghanistan may well have been killed had it not been for the light-armoured vehicle they were travelling in, say military experts and the reporter involved in the blast.

Its lucky they werent in an Iltis, said Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps military magazine, referring to the light-duty, open-top jeeps once used by Canadas military in Afghanistan. The soldiers and a foreign journalist were injured yesterday when a roadside bomb exploded near their G-Wagon an enclosed vehicle with armour plating and thick, shock-resistant windows. One soldier suffered a broken leg while another had a broken ankle and foot. Military officials believe the bomb was an improvised explosive device. The blast struck as the Canadians patrolled near the town of Maywand, about 90 km west of Kandahar.

The vehicles front end was crushed but the rest of it, including windows and entire passenger compartment, remained intact. They probably would have been killed had they been patrolling in an Iltis, said Taylor. Theres absolutely no protection on an Iltis whatsoever. An American helicopter evacuated two of the soldiers to a U.S. field hospital at Kandahar.

Col. Steve Bowes, commander of the Canadian operation in Kandahar, said the third soldier and the journalist walked away with minor injuries and went back to work. The military was not releasing any names, although next of kin have been notified. The soldiers were members of the 3rd battalion, Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, said Capt. Brian Hillier. The journalist involved, Tim Albone of Global Radio News, said he believes the armour of the Mercedes G-Wagon prevented even worse injuries to himself and the soldiers.

Im convinced that is what, and in fact that is what the soldiers say, saved our lives, Albone told CBC Newsworld. Shortly after the bombing, two men fleeing the scene were arrested and handed over to Afghan police, Albone wrote in a story for the Globe and Mail. The Defence Department awarded a $130-million contract to Mercedes-Benz Canada in 2003 for 802 Gelaendewagens, or G-Wagons, and 150 Armour Protection Systems for the vehicles. The military later bought more of the vehicles and armour kits, bringing the total to 1,159 by late last year. The initial order came after two Canadian soldiers died when their Iltis struck a landmine near Kabul.

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