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How to Live out of a Lav or Other Mechanized Vehicle

During my time as a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) Gunner in an infantry battalion (2 PPCLI), I picked up several tips and tricks on how to both survive and thrive.  I’ve outlined three important tips that most new vehicle crews often overlook that directly affect their personal readiness.  Let's take a look below…

Convoy of CAF LAV 6 on a road
Canadian Armed Forces India Company, Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia
  1. The Convoy doesn’t stop for anyone, including you.

What does this mean for you? It means you can’t just get out whenever you want, and that there is no DAMN space except for a few inches behind you by the radios and that's it!  You need to have everything you need to live there, because you can’t get out.

When you’re in the Gunner seat of a LAV 6 (Canadian version of the Strykr), look to your left and you’ll see a fire suppression system canister...

Take a machine gun ammunition can (M240 or the SAW) and strap it to the canister (without blocking the suppression nozzle, of course) and now you have a nice storage box for snacks, maps, ammo, and of course the most essential piece of kit….

The Pee bottle.

2. If you think the Crew Commander is monitoring the means - he’s not.

You both have headphones on, Platoon comms in the left ear and Company in the right (typically), but do you think the boss is listening?

HELL NO, He’s got 11 lives to worry about stuffed inside the vehicle like sardines (3 x crew and 8 x soldiers) and he’s gotta get this land boat where it needs to go in one piece.  A LAV (or other armored vehicle) can do alot of damage if it hits something and roll-overs can be fatal.

TAPV Roll-over in Canada
TAPV Roll-over in Canada

You need to be listening, and ready to copy down notes on a moment's notice.  Take a piece of paper and laminate it, then tape it to the top of the ammo bin or control box.  Take a non-permanent marker or sharpie and tie it off with some paracord and you’ll have a reusable notebook, ready at a moment's notice (without having to try and shuffle around to get into your pockets and under your armor) that's completely erasable.

3. Make use of the guys in the back

Typically the Driver and Gunner work together on the vehicle maintenance, but any up-armored vehicle takes a whole team to maintain and keep operational.  Sometimes, this can take several hours in more austere conditions.  The guys in the back are on the same team and they want the vehicle operational because their lives depend on it too.  

Show them where the tools are and spare ammo is stored (especially if you’re gonna need them to grab it in a hurry).  Show them the easier and less critical routine maintenance procedures so you can get freed up to do more complex work.

As a Gunner, take the time to sit them one by one in the hatch and show them how the LAV weapons systems and optics work.  You can’t be on a turret watch 24/7 after all, and eventually you’ll need relief.

Soldier from the King's Own Calgary Regiment in the TAPV gunners seat
Soldier from the King's Own Calgary Regiment in the TAPV gunners seat

One thing I learned is that common sense -  isn't. People won’t be prepared, they won’t pay attention and they won’t ask for help.  Any armored vehicle is a crew served system, and a section level responsibility; we live and die as a team.

While these might seem like insignificant tips, the little things can have a big impact.  Being able to take rapid fire orders over the radio, use your kit on the move without having to leave the turret and rely on your team to get the maintenance done will ensure that you’re ready for whatever mission you have.

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