The City of Walla Walla has a new toy for it's SWAT team. (Photo courtesy of KNDU-TV).

Officially it's known to the Defense Department as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored truck.   But to the Walla Walla police department, it's a new improved vehicle to be used by the SWAT team.

The arrival of the ex-military equipment raised a few eyebrows in Walla Walla and on the internet, where some have questioned the need for SWAT teams in smaller communities to be needing vehicles that once protected U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East.

But for months now, the Defense Department has been scrapping, selling or giving away the hulking, imposing looking rigs.   Originally pushed through as a replacement for Humvees that were being hard-hit by roadside bombs and other ordinance,  the military found they had too many of them.   Last December the L.A. Times ran a feature story entitled "From MRAP to Scrap,"  detailing how the $1 million dollar-apiece rigs (along with other surplus equipment) is being scrapped or stripped of weaponry and sold to Afghan citizens, farmers and scrap dealers.  They're also being sold to "friendly" nations for military use.

27,000 of them were cranked out since 2007 at a cost of $50 billion dollars.  They were rushed into production after U.S. casualty rates rose alarmingly when Humvees were found to lack the armor and strength to resist sophisticated and larger roadside bombs and other weaponry.

Walla Walla paid over $9,000 to get the vehicle shipped here from Texas, where it had been brought home.  The 16-ton vehicles are equipped with upgraded armor that resisted or absorbed thousands of insurgent bomb blasts throughout the Middle East.    To refurbish the thousands of MRAP's would cost too much, so selling and-or scrapping them will save about $50 million, according to the Defense Department.  They are being replaced in combat zones by what are called newer, faster and more heavily-armored MSFV's or Mobile Strike Force Vehicles.

The Walla Walla 15-person team will train on the MRAP starting soon.  The team responds, on average, to about 7 incidents annually.   According to some sources, these vehicles aren't the cheapest to maintain, but the chance to get an ex-military monster for virtually nothing compared to it's cost was too good to pass up.

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