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words and pictures Glenn Sands

Secondhand civilian pickups are playing their part in the war on terror –
and they’ll be coming to a military show near you

Dump
Trucks

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T
here’s been a shift in the classic military vehicle market.
There’s always someone or some group breaking the mould
and shunning the traditional Jeeps, Snatch Land Rovers and
Dodge Weapons Carriers that flood the market.
Much like the Special Forces (SF) characters they are re-enacting,
the Sierra Alpha Re-enactment Display Group (SARD) is pushing
the limits on what you expect to see at military vehicle events.
They’re not deep behind enemy lines, they’re on the front line
educating the public on today’s SF lookalikes.
While traditionalists still focus on World War One and Two,
SARD look to more recent conflicts and the SF teams that have
been engaged in America’s war on terror for more than ten years.
There are a few modified Special Air Special Land Rovers on the
circuit but, until recently, there weren’t any groups representing the
US Special Forces teams, such as the Seal Air and Land Forces
(SEALs). These teams often operate alongside their British coun-
terparts on secret missions around the globe – and now there are
some SEALs, of a kind, operating in the UK!
But they’re not equipped with the traditional bulky US military
vehicles like HUMVEEs and Chenowth Light Strike Vehicles. Real
SEAL teams are using Mazdas acquired from local secondhand
car markets in whichever country they happen to be operating in
at the time
As details of past covert operations slowly make their way into
mainstream media, for army surplus dealer Simon Burrows from
Surrey, this is an opportunity to create something new for the
public at the military shows.
Simon and a few friends formed a SEAL-themed team re-enact-
ment group more than ten years ago so they could take part in
Airsoft combat games at the weekends. Having acquired all the
personal kit over the years, it seemed a natural progression to
create a complete ‘unit’.
Two years ago, after attending War and Peace, it became
apparent that the group really needed a vehicle to increase their
presence at these events. Despite public interest in what the
re-enactors were wearing, the focus at these events is on the vehi-
cles. So, for SARD the ‘mission’ was to have appropriate vehicles,
used by modern SEAL teams, by the start of the show season the
following year.
The group researched the types of vehicles SEALs were using in
war zones and came across internet images showing standard
Ford Rangers and Mitsubishi Shoguns. It appeared that ‘operators’
simply grabbed what vehicles were available and adapted them to
their own specific requirements.
The advantage of using non-standard US military vehicles is
that the teams can customise them and they are also lighter than
traditional HUMVEEs and more fuel-efficient. Although lacking the
traditional Kevlar armour, the speed of the civilian pick-ups means
they can get out of trouble as quickly as they get into it.
Dubbed ‘raid vehicles’ by some, the pick-ups are more widely
known as ‘dump vehicles’ – because they can be dumped if they
get damaged or hit during a mission. With no classified equip-
ment directly attached to the vehicle, it can simply be left on the
battlefield and then another one found back at base. The loss of a
secondhand $2,000 Japanese pick-up is easier on the US military
budget than leaving a $220,000 HUMVEE behind enemy lines -
with all its sensitive equipment needing to be destroyed with a few
white phosphorous grenades.
Simon quickly realised SARD had the potential to acquire and
modify replica vehicles to look like SEAL ‘dump’ trucks. And the
process didn’t take too long.
“We quickly discovered that Mazda B-2500s were a favourite
pick-up choice for the teams and looking across the secondhand
car market here, I found I could get one for around £2,000,” he
says. “It was then a case of modifying the truck as best as I
could to the pictures we had been supplied from former mem-
bers of the SEALs.”
Andrew Wooley, another vehicle-owning member of SARD,
managed to track ex-SEAL team members who provided

Mazda B-2500 pick-ups similar to this replica are frequently used by US


Special Forces who customise them to specific mission requirements
when operating behind enemy lines

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Painted with masonry paint specially mixed at a local B&Q to match a desert ammo pouch, the three black
lines on the door denote a SEAL Team Three vehicle. The Texas flags add a bit of colour and is known as a
home state for a lot of members within the teams

MAZDA B-SERIES PICK-UPS


The Mazda B-series pick-up truck was first produced in 1961. It has evolved through five generations,
with the latest produced between 1998 to 2006. With production lines located in eight countries, the
current models are sold in more than 130 countries and are known by numerous names. Within Europe, With a Texas flag on the bonnet, a high-viz orange coalition
signifying Mazda’s links with Ford, it was known as the Ranger. In Australia and New Zealand, it’s called air recognition panel on its roof and armed to the teeth with
the Ford Courier. By 2009, a worldwide fall in sales meant the Ford-built B-Series was discontinued after a .50 cal, this B-2500 is far removed from how it looked
the 2009 model year. The North American Ranger was discontinued at the end of 2011. when acquired secondhand by Simon

‘A lot of work
has gone into
turning this
B2500 into a
‘dump truck’ so
One of the three replica
‘dump trucks’ currently
on the show circuit is
owned by Steve Wil-
liams. Note the use of you’d expect the
netting to camouflage
anything reflective,
such as the Bull Bars
cost to be high’

Simon’s Mazda is fitted with replica infra-red headlights. A standard coalition warning sign used on all vehicles to
When combined with NVGs, it allows the real SEAL teams to The death’s head was applied to many of the pick- deter any would be car bomber or potential attacker when
drive completely blacked-out behind enemy lines ups to serve as a warning to any potential enemy operating in an urban environment

46
lition
h with
d

Festooned with weapons and personal kit attached to the sand ladders, Simon is slowly replacing individual items with accurate US examples. This Jerrycan is to a
NATO pattern, American examples are slightly different

help via email, He recalled: “After quite a bit away to the enemy. It’s the little things that to be the same shade as in the pictures we’d
of time I got in touch with recently retired really added to the look of the vehicles.” been sent. So, Andrew and I went to our local
SF operators who used the Mazdas on Having bought a silver B2500 secondhand, B&Q and got the staff there to mix up a few tins
operations. After going back and forth on Simon’s first job was to give it an authentic of masonry paint to the same shade. It was
email, we could get an overview of what rustic finish so it looked as though the Mazda then simply a case of painting the pick-up with
equipment was carried and where, and also had been on a few covert missions. This was brushes and rollers.
the little tricks the SF teams used. One of easier than he expected: “To beef up the look of “We knew they’d used the same method
these was putting glow sticks inside empty the Mazda, I added Land Rover Defender wheel in theatre so it just added to the realism of
plastic drinking bottles and attaching these arches, swapped the wheels for aftermarket vehicle. Afterwards, I banged a few dents into
to the radio aerials. It sounds silly but at alloys and added Insa Turbo Dakar tyres to give the bodywork so it looked as though it had seen
night when they are driving using NVGs and it more of a presence. It was then a case of some action. It was then a case of adding all
without lights, they can see each pick-up getting the right desert colour for the pick-up. I the bits I had been collecting over the past
ahead of them without giving themselves found an Airsoft magazine pouch that seemed few years.

to The NATO standard infra-red arrow used to assist Much like their aviation counterparts, SEAL teams often
hen The high morale within SEAL units allowed for a number the following vehicle in a convoy when driving personalised their own vehicles with cartoon characters
of unorthodox personal touches covertly at night on the bonnet or doors

47
A lot of work has gone into turning this
B2500
route is intothata ‘dump
there’struck’
no real soset
you’d
confi expect
guration the
SEAL HISTORY cost
for theto trucks.
be high.We’re But as stillSimon
addingexplained,
bits to them part
The covert operations of the US Navy’s SEALs of
as the
andappeal
when we is that
find you can get Ita can
something. great beresult
as
(Sea, Air and Land Forces) burst onto the world’s without
simple as blowing
US-style themine
budget: “Part of going
marking-pegs, or a this
bit
media stage in May 2011, following the raid on
SEALs
of roperoute is that there’scarabiners.
or American-style no set confi guration
The cost
Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad,
Pakistan. Since then, the Special Forces unit for the trucks.
is pretty low when We’reyou still adding itbits
compare to them
to other mil-
has never been far from the headlines with as
itaryand when we
vehicles. Thefind something
.50cal It canreplica,
is an Airsoft be as
best-selling books from former operators and simple
which looksas US-style
better thanmineamarking-pegs,
deactivated one or and
a
big budget films such as Lone Survivor and bit of cheaper.
is far rope or American-style
I spray painted carabiners.
a few bits and The
American Sniper. cost is pretty
you can’t reallylow tellwhen you compare
the difference. Nextityearto I’m
Developed from the World War Two Under- other
looking military
to addvehicles.
a propane The .50cal
bottle so iswean canAirsoft
sim-
water Demolition Teams, the SEALs were
replica,
ulate firing which looks
it. The better than
intention a deactivated
is to have it working
established by President John F Kennedy in
1962 as a small elite maritime military force one
so we and can is perform
far cheaper. I spray-painted
an arena display likeasome few
to conduct unconventional warfare. They are bits
of theand youre-enactment
other can’t really tell the difference.
groups do. Hopefully
tasked with carrying out clandestine small-unit, Next
it will year
raiseI’m thelooking
profile of to the
addgroup.
a propane bottle
high-impact missions that large forces with so“I we
guesscanthe simulate firing it.has
entire project Thecost
intention
about is to
high-profile equipment, such as ships, tanks, have
£4,000 it working
but of course so weI don’t
can perform
want to an sellarena
it!”
jets and submarines, could not. SEALs conduct display
With one likepick-up
some of the otherthe
complete, re-enactment
two others in
essential on-the-ground special reconnaissance One of the images supplied to the re-enactment group by groups
the group do.areHopefully
slowly comingit will raise the profi
together. le of
Perhaps
of critical targets for imminent strikes by larger former SEAL team members during operations illustrating their
the group.approach within this group is that
a unique
conventional forces. use of civilian pick-ups
“I guess
each vehicle theisentire
beingproject
tailoredhas cost about
to complement
£4,000
the other, butgiving
of course I don’teffect
the overall want of to how
sell it!”
a
LEFT: Kevlar body armour applied to the driver and Withor
three onefourpick-up
vehicle complete,
patrol would the two others
be confi g- in
passenger seats for protection the
ured. group
They’ve are adopted
slowly coming together.
the markings Perhaps
of Seal
FAR LEFT: Glow-sticks in a bottle – these aid vehicles
following behind covertly in a convoy at night
aTeam
unique Threeapproach
during within this group
its deployment tois that
Afghan-
BELOW MIDDLE: Mortar round cases attached to the roof each
istan vehicle
and Iraq.isThis being tailored certainly
approach to complementtypifies
of the pick-up. These are British rounds but will be the
SARD’sother,viewgiving
of thethemilitary
overallvehicle
effect of how a
scene,
replaced in due course with American examples three
whereorthey’re
four vehicle
gettingpatrol
high-end would be con-
results on a rea-
BOTTOM: The clone copy of an American PRC-152 fisonable
gured. They’ve
budget. adopted
In the pipelinethe markings
are a coupleof of
radio, as used by SEAL teams on operations Seal Team and
quadbikes Three during
a Sand itsFast
Rail deployment to
Patrol Vehicle.

‘The group really needed a vehicle to


increase their presence at these events’
“I guess in total it was two weeks solid work Afghanistan and Iraq. This
Aside from attracting a lotapproach
of attentioncertainly
at
to get it looking like this. The idea was to have typifi es SARD’s
military shows, theviewgroup
of thehas
military
raisedvehicle
money
this pick-up configured as a heavy support scene,
for Helpwhere they’reand
for Heroes getting high-end
the British results
Legion and
vehicle while the others within the group are on a their
with reasonable budget.
reputation In thethe
reaching pipeline arelook
US, they
mixed and we’ve got a close-support and a aset
couple of quadbikes
to provide andThe
support for a Sand
ChrisRail
KyleFast
Frog
fire-support vehicle. Patrol Vehicle.
Foundation next year.
“Working in the army surplus business, I’m Aside fromlooking
For those attracting a lot of vehicles
to replicate attentionused
at by
able to set aside any useful bits as they pass military shows,
the world’s theforces
special group teams,
has raised
this money
is
through. One piece of kit we had trouble for Help for Heroes and the British Legion and
locating were military sand ladders. But after with their reputation reaching the US, they look
a few months we found a whole stack of them set to provide support for The Chris Kyle Frog
and bought the lot - enough for all the Mazdas Foundation next year.
in SARD.” For those looking to replicate vehicles used
Looking over Simon’s B2500, the attention by the world’s special forces teams, this is
to detail is exceptional although he readily certainly a cost-effective way to bring a bit of
admits it’s still a work in progress. He’s had to colour to the sea of Olive Drab out there.
supplement British and NATO items in place
of US ones because export restrictions placed
on ex-US kit make it hard to obtain in the UK.
British Land Rover aerials are in place, along
CHRIS KYLE FROG FOUNDATION
with a NATO standard Jerrycan, but when The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF) was
founded by Taya Kyle to honour the life and
US pattern examples are eventually acquired
service of her husband, ‘American
they’ll be swapped. Sniper’ Chris Kyle. Prior to his
A recent addition for the inside of the death in February 2013, Chris
cab is a clone copy of an American was working on establishing
PRC-152 radio - this hand-held unit a network of families and
is still used by SF. The same goes friends able to support
for ‘tuff books’, the military grade Special Forces service men
computer laptops that Simon now and women and their ‘first
responder families’ and to
has a replica of. Once this hi-tech deal with the experiences
kit is added to the inside of the cab, it and problems they may have
certainly gives the feel of an unconven- following a deployment. From
tional war machine and illustrates that if the offering retreats or simply someone
truck is crippled, every piece of kit can simply to lean on, the foundation continues to provide
be thrown into a kit bag or Bergen and the support to past and present SEAL members.
Mazda be abandoned.

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