Dora soldier turns inventor during Mideast deployment
As a husband, father, firefighter and soldier, Sgt. Michael Thorin is comfortable in the role of protector.
It is his dedication to each of his roles that drives him to better himself in them, which is a reason why Thorin has recently earned a new distinction, that of inventor.
Thorin, a 1991 graduate of Dora High School, joined the Army the summer after his junior year under a "split-op program," which allowed high school juniors who were 17 years old to go to Basic Combat Training then return for their senior year and graduate.
While in the military, Thorin married his wife, Vicki, and now has two children, Cadie, 11, and Hannah, 9. He also became a firefighter for the city of Adamsville, where he has since ascended to the position of lieutenant.
"When this deployment is over, I intend to return home to my family," Thorin said in an e-mail from Arifjan, Kuwait. "I miss them deeply.
"I was deployed on July 15 of this year and sent to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for training, and on September 11, I boarded an airplane headed for Iraq," Thorin said. "I got into country on September 13 and have been between Kuwait and Iraq ever since then."
Originally, Thorin was assigned as a gunner atop a Humvee responsible for the security of convoys. In this position, he was issued a M-2 .50-caliber machine gun and a 15 million-candle power Cyclops Spotlight.
These convoys are instrumental to the U.S. military's occupation of Iraq. They provide the much-needed security to everything from personnel to fuel, which is the lifeblood of the military's operations.
Many Humvee-escorted convoys run their missions at night in hopes of lessening the frequency of attacks, and during these runs, the high-powered light is invaluable. However, its tremendous light strength (equivalent to 150 60-watt light bulbs) translates into cumbersome weight and size.
"The light was large and bulky and when traveling on the road had a great deal of wind resistance, making it hard to handle," Thorin said. "The light is approximately 10 lbs, and is extremely awkward to carry.
"(It) was hazardous for the safety of the gunner."
So, using what he calls "the old noodle" and some experience he garnered while mapping for the city of Adamsville, Thorin obtained a computer drafting program and set out to design a mechanism that would improve a soldier's ability to maneuver the light and, more importantly, enhance the safety of its operator.
"I came up with the idea of using existing weapons mounts to create a bracket to hold the spotlight on a pendulum, which allowed it to elevate and traverse (go right and left and up and down) on the turret, allowing the gunner to only have to use one hand to turn the spotlight," he said.
He then took his design to the Forward Repair Activity (FRA) shop, a catchall for military equipment in need of repair -- if a piece of equipment can't be fixed there, it is sent back to the states to be rebuilt. With Thorin's design, the skilled machinist and welders at the shop assembled the very first FRA Spotlight Mounting Bracket.
"It was given the name FRA because the guys in the shop did the bulk of the work after I brought the idea to them," Thorin said.
And it must have impressed the right people because, according to Thorin, "there are over 100 being looked at for the gun trucks."
Thorin has since been reassigned from the gunner position but said he had the opportunity to use his design in action and found it to be "very handy."
"It feels good to know that something I helped with is being used to benefit other troops in this theater," he said.
However, his greatest satisfaction as a soldier serving abroad is the assurance he has in his family's support and love.
"There is a place deep inside of me that will be empty until I get back to them, but that is why they are so great," he said. "Because I know that no matter what happens, they will be there for me when I get home. Vicki, Cadie and Hannah are three of the greatest gifts God has given to me, and everything I have been able to accomplish while I am here is because they are there, waiting for me."
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