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Entries in remote control car (1)

Thursday
Aug042011

Toy Truck Saves Six Soldiers

US Dept of Defense(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden is on duty in Afghanistan now after tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He has traveled with standard-issue equipment -- weapons, helmet, uniform, boots and so forth -- plus a radio-controlled model truck his brother sent.

The truck was not a toy to him. He says it just saved six lives.

"We cannot thank you enough," said Sgt. Fessenden in an email from the front that his brother Ernie, a software engineer in Rochester, Minn., shared with ABC News.

The little truck was used by the troops to run ahead of them on patrols and look for roadside bombs. Fessenden has had it since 2007, when Ernie and Kevin Guy, the owner of the Everything Hobby shop in Rochester, rigged it with a wireless video camera and shipped it to him.

Last week, it paid off. Chris Fessenden said he had loaned the truck to a group of fellow soldiers, who used it to check the road ahead of them on a patrol. It got tangled in a trip wire connected to what Fessenden guesses could have been 500 lbs. of explosives. The bomb went off. The six soldiers controlling the truck from their Humvee were unhurt.

"Monday morning, Ernie comes running into my store and says, 'You're not gonna believe this,'" said Guy, recounting the story in a telephone interview. "I got an email from [Chris] that said, 'Hey, man, I'm sorry, but the truck is gone,'" said Ernie, admitting he still found it all pretty hard to believe. "The neat thing is that the guys in the Humvee were all right."

The military does what it can to protect its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, have been a constant danger.

That was what led Ernie and Kevin to send the model truck, a higher-end model called a Traxxas Stampede. After they added the video camera, with a small monitor Chris could mount on his rifle, Kevin guesses the total cost came to about $500.

In his email, Chris Fessenden said the little truck has successfully found four IEDs since he first got it.

"We do mounted patrols, in trucks, and dismounted by foot," he wrote. "The funny thing is the Traxxas does faster speeds than the trucks we are operating in under the governing speed limit... so the Traxxas actually keeps up with us and is able to advance past us and give us eyes on target before we get there."

A spokesperson for Traxxas tells ABC News Radio this isn't the first time its trucks -- some which could reach speeds of 75 mph -- have been used on the frontlines. Representatives for the company spent weeks with troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan, demonstrating how its vehicles could be used for this purpose -- and give away free vehicles to troops.

Sgt. Fessenden isn't alone in using kids toys to save soldiers' lives. Other troops have reported they've rigged the controllers of remote control cars in the "On" position to safely trigger infrared-detonated IEDs before their vehicles could trip them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio