Ever wish, upon hearing that yet another of our soldiers or Marines has been killed or wounded while operating in dangerous areas of Iraq or Afghanistan, that you could do something – anything – to reduce the chances it will happen again?
Such a powerful and understandable sentiment seems to be operating in the minds of millions of Americans currently backing Democratic presidential candidates who promise, if elected, to begin immediately withdrawing our forces from harm’s way (at least the Iraqi part). Unfortunately, this approach is not likely to prevent more American forces, or for that matter civilians, from getting hurt. To the contrary, our defeat and retreat under fire from one or both of these fronts in this global War for the Free World will set the stage for vastly worse carnage, certainly abroad and probably at home.
Those who subscribe to that assessment – and even many who do not – hope that, by supporting large and growing defense budgets, the troops will get what they need in the way of equipment to do their missions and receive the protection required to do so safely. To a very considerable degree, that is the case.
What if there were something more we could do though, something that might make a real difference – both to the safety of our guys on the ground and to their success? My guess is that millions of Americans would be willing to help.
It turns out that there is something else we as civilians might be able to do to transform the effectiveness and survivability of infantry soldiers and Marine “ground-pounders,” troops who are obliged to perform today’s tough jobs in urban settings and elsewhere pretty much the same way their grandfathers did in World War II. It involves a device known as a “Jake” – an infantryman’s personal mobility, sensor and weapons platform best described as a “Segway on steroids.”
The invention of the Jake is a classic American story. It is the brainchild of Russell Strong, a brilliant engineer and innovator known in his industry as “Mr. Tractor” for his revolutionary designs in the agricultural and heavy equipment industries. He started out in 1999 trying to perfect a means of providing revolutionary mobility to wheelchair-bound individuals. When he presented his concept to veterans wounded in Vietnam and Somalia, they urged him to adapt it for their comrades fighting today’s wars – and tomorrow’s.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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