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Jewish World Review
March 4, 2008
/ 27 Adar I 5768
Give a troop a Jake
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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.
The result is a compact unit with two Humvee-size wheels in back and two
smaller wheels in front, the capacity to carry either two soldiers (and,
where needed, a few more hitching rides on running boards), one soldier
and up to a 2,000-pound pallet of gear, or no soldiers at all, thanks to
the Jake's ability to be operated by remote control. This platform
relies on its agility, speed and ability to operate in a "swarm" to give
unprecedented options to troops fighting in alleys and other areas or
working to interact constructively with civilians, while deterring
Powered by a hybrid electric engine, Jake can move stealthily in combat
and with minimal disruption in crowded marketplaces. Each platform can
also serve as a source of electrical power for the military, something
always in short supply in forward operating positions.
Visionary military leaders like the Army's retiring Vice Chief of Staff,
Gen. Richard Cody, have called the Jake "the warrior transformer."
Interestingly, the more junior the personnel, the greater the
appreciation for the contribution such devices might make, now and in
the future. Some preparing to deploy to Iraq have, when shown an early
Jake prototype, pleaded with Mr. Strong to let them take it along.
So, what's the problem? The very qualities that make the Jake such a
potentially transformative asset cause many in the institutional
military to recoil from its early adoption. Like IBM, which once
famously failed to appreciate that the day of the large, immensely
expensive mainframe computer was giving way to the era of PCs and
proliferating software, the armed forces need to appreciate that Jake
represents the advent of an era when "networked" or "distributed"
warfare is the norm - not something to which lip-service is paid.
For their part, many defense contractors recognize that Jake could
enable them finally to overcome the weight-barrier to equipping foot
soldiers with more firepower, technologies designed to counter roadside
bombs and snipers and the integrated support of unmanned aerial
vehicles. In the absence of a stated military requirement for Jake,
however, few are willing to provide the $10 million required to develop
and equip the first dozen prototypes needed to evaluate this platform
and begin evolving concepts for its utilization. As things stand now,
without a change of heart in the Pentagon or intervention from Capitol
Hill, the whole effort to realize the Jake's promise could come to
There is, as a result, an opportunity for the American people to help.
Find out more about the Jake at www.AmericanAgility.com. If you like what you see there,
make a contribution to allow Russ Strong and his team to overcome the
inertia that has for too long kept these assets from saving the lives,
and contributing to the success, of our brave troops in harm's way.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comments by clicking here.
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© 2006, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.