Humvee now in service for LPD

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Lewisburg Police Department didn't have a four-wheel-drive vehicle until this summer when it took possession of a Humvee from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurste in New Jersey.

Police Chief Chuck Forbis obtained the vehicle - at no cost to the city - through a program he used in his previous job with the Sarasota, Fla., Sheriff's Department, and he's willing to help other area departments use the program to get surplus military equipment.

In fact, Forbis has been using the program here for a while.

"I just sent (Detective Sgt.) David Henley to Anniston, Ala., to pick up 20 brand new optical sights for our rifles, obtained through the same program that we received the Humvee," Forbis said. "The value of those sights is approximately $400 each."

The department has a variety of rifles, but through the surplus military equipment program, it's obtained another, an M-16 for the Emergency Response Team, the same ERT unit that recently went to a house where the resident had shot up his neighbor's front yard and had half a dozen rifles inside his home with uncounted rounds of ammunition.

The Humvee is valued at some $40,000, Forbis said. As received in New Jersey, the Humvee has a soft top and doors. A hard top has been obtained and placed on the vehicle. The top is valued at $30,000, a price that's attributed to its design. Only a few were made and they came from a sole-source for Humvee tops. Lewisburg has a top that accommodates a specialized antenna for electronic counter-measures equipment.

City police went to Anniston to get the top for their Humvee.

"Actually, Humvee is a popular nickname for the vehicle," he said. "The official name is High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or HMMWV. Our model is the M998A1 version."

Military terminology aside, it implies there are other models, and there are.

Forbis hopes to obtain an armored Humvee with air conditioning, Henley said. Those units served as ambulances by the military. Such a vehicle would be used here for the ERT.

"If we don't take them, the military crushes them," Henley said.

Both would be available for off-road access and during bad weather, Forbis and Henley said.

The M998A1 Humvee is to be repainted with the city police patrol car stripes, colors and details so that it's recognized as a police department vehicle. The paint job may await acquisition of hard doors, windows and locking mechanisms.

"We will use it for parades and special events," Forbis said.

The Humvee was on display during the Cops For Kids program last month in Rock Creek Park where it drew attention from children as well as adults with an interest in vehicles and the military.

"The kids seemed to like it," Forbis said. "They all wanted to sit in it."

Other equipment obtained through the surplus program for law enforcement agencies include optical sights, eye protection for officers while shooting firearms and a number of gun cleaning kits, Henley said.

The detective sergeant served as a cavalry scout in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm. He was in the 3rd Armored Division during that tour of duty in the early 1990s, as well as his stint during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Everything I drove was heavily up-armored," Henley said. "I didn't see any soft skins."

Humvees roll on special combat-ready tires, he said. The "run flat tires" have a honeycomb of rubber inside that allows continued driving if the air is released.

"The ride is rough," he said, "but it gets you there."

Henley also drove Bradley vehicles in Iraq, he said.

The city's Humvee cost the Army $40,000. If Lewisburg wanted to buy an armored vehicle -- such as an up-armored Humvee -- the price, according to Forbis would be well over $100,000."

Meanwhile, as Forbis is willing to help other agencies use the surplus program for law enforcement agencies, the chief says that if Sheriff Norman Dalton and/or Bob Hopkins, director of the county's Emergency Management Agency, need the vehicle, then it's available to them; "Any agency in the area," Forbis said.