Armored Vehicle Extends Cherokee Nation's Reach In Emergencies

Friday, February 7th 2014, 5:07 pm

By: Craig Day

When the roads are covered in snow and ice or tornado debris, the Cherokee Nation now has a piece of military surplus equipment to reach people in need.

It's a 15-ton, six-wheel drive vehicle and it didn't cost the Cherokee Nation a dime due to a program that donates surplus equipment to state and local agencies.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, this type of armored vehicle was called a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker describes it differently.

"It's like an ambulance on steroids," Baker said.

The Cherokee Nation realized the need for a vehicle like this when an ice storm trapped people, some needing daily dialysis treatment, in their homes, and emergency personnel had a difficult time getting to them.

"You have no power, no water, no help, we've got to get to you quick," Cherokee Marshal Shannon Buhl said.

The U.S. defense department vehicle, worth about a half-million dollars, is six-wheel drive and at 30,000 pounds, its heavy duty enough to get around on snow and ice.

But Cherokee Marshals will use it during other natural disasters too, like tornadoes... To rescue people or bring in much needed supplies to inaccessible areas.

"It will actually drive over a pretty good-sized tree," Baker said.

The vehicle has room for nine people in the back, or at least two stretchers, and it has a fuel range of 350 miles.

The Cherokee Nation covers 14 counties in eastern Oklahoma, much of it very rural and rugged. The vehicle will get emergency crews to just about anywhere they need to go.

Over the next month, tribal marshals will undergo certification training to be able to drive the vehicle.

The turret will be removed to make sure there is clearance to drive under bridges. It will also be retrofitted with a wheelchair ramp on the back.

"No matter if there is ice, snow, a tree collapse, we can get to these communities that need us," Buhl said.

With only nine thousand miles on it, the Cherokee Nation will get many years of service from the vehicle, starting this upcoming tornado season.


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