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Brawny New Truck At The Ready For Emergencies



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Town police have acquired a massive truck for use in major emergencies.

Known as a M-ATV, the armored 13-ton military surplus truck, which is painted in flat tan desert camouflage, stands at the ready for rescue work during major natural disasters, and also for potential use as a tactical vehicle in the event of an active shooter situation, according to police.

The August 2019 acquisition of the M-ATV brings to three the number of vehicles in the Newtown police fleet which may be used in tactical situations. Two of those vehicles also are suitable for emergency rescue work.

Several Newtown police are members of the Danbury Regional Emergency Services Unit (DRESU), more commonly known as a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Danbury and Brookfield police also participate in the unit.

Besides the M-ATV, town police also have a military surplus Hummer, or Humvee, which is painted in woodland camouflage flat colors of green, black, and brown. A Humvee is a “high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle.”

Just as the enclosed Hummer had been an upgrade of the classic open military jeep, the M-ATV is an upgrade of the Hummer, providing a taller, higher-ground-clearance vehicle with armoring intended to protect troops within the vehicle from bomb blasts caused by mines known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during warfare.

The term M-ATV is a contraction of the military acronym MRAP-ATV, which stands for Mine-Resistant Armor-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle. The M-ATV is a more nimble version of the MRAP.

Last May, Newtown police displayed their military-surplus Hummer and their converted former Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (NVAC) ambulance, which has been modified for use as a SWAT vehicle. That low-visibility vehicle has a matte black finish and drab lettering. Police describe the modular-style truck as a “general field command/scene vehicle.”

Both the M-ATV and the Hummer are suitable for rescue work as well as SWAT use.

Police Chief James Viadero said that the M-ATV should prove especially useful in floods, when having a vehicle with a high ground clearance allows travel through high-water areas. Such a truck also would be useful in the aftermath of windstorms, when driving through debris-blocked areas is difficult, he said.

Of the hulking M-ATV, the chief said, “It’s not a patrol vehicle,” but a special purpose vehicle intended for limited use. It is set up to carry a driver and three passengers and could be outfitted to carry several people in a rear cargo compartment. The heavy, bulky armoring, which was in place for a gun turret located above the passenger compartment, has been removed.

The M-ATV is on long-term loan from the military. The town did not have to pay to acquire the vehicle, which is valued at $575,000. The town did cover the $3,600 transportation cost to have it hauled here from Texas, said police Captain Christopher Vanghele.

Of the police department’s acquisition of the big truck, Chief Viadero said, “We had the opportunity to get a piece of equipment we could utilize as a rescue vehicle and as an active shooter [response vehicle]. It’s a regional asset.”

“It’s being proactive [in terms of] community safety, officer safety,” he said.

Having such a vehicle will give police the ability to reach areas like those that were inaccessible to them in May 2018 following the severe windstorm that blew through the area. Several town police officers have received training on how to drive the M-ATV, he said.

The diesel-powered behemoth has a winch that could be used to recover trapped vehicles.

Town Police Captain Christopher Vanghele, left, and Patrol Officer Matthew Hayes are seen next to the department’s new military-surplus M-ATV, a large, armor-plated all-terrain vehicle intended for emergency rescue work, improved access to damaged areas following major storms, and police responses to active shooter situations. —Bee Photo, Gorosko
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