Ten years of war have put major wear and tear on U.S. military equipment — creating a scenario of a “hollow force” that threatens the government’s promise to provide for the common defense. Heritage hosts a panel of experts today at 11 a.m. ET to examine the consequences for U.S. security and how to prevent the U.S. military from going hollow.

>>> Watch a live webcast of Hollow Force: Future of the U.S. Military?

Among today’s speakers is retired Col. Kerry Kachejian, whose life-changing experience working in Iraq was the subject a short film from Heritage last year. As an Army Reserve engineer, Kachejian was tasked with restoring some of the most basic services for the Iraqi people, as well as building schools, hospitals, and police stations.

He did this work with a sport-utility vehicle, an automobile that lacked armored protection and was more suited for America’s highways than Iraq’s dangerous streets.

Without armored fighting vehicles that could stand up to ambushes and attacks, Kachejian recalled how the SUVs were modified — ripping off the tailgate to make room for a gunner and hanging personal body armor out the window to stop or slow down a AK-47 round.

“Without armor, when you’re moving down an Iraqi road in a sport-utility vehicle, the one thing you have is speed,” Kachejian said. “So we would drive as fast as we could, sometimes 80 to 110 miles per hour. It was somewhat like a ‘Mad Max’ movie, rolling down the road in a sport-utility vehicle.”

Kachejian told his harrowing story in a book called “SUVs Suck In Combat.” It chronicles some of the war stories that Americans never heard about the readiness challenges facing our military. The Heritage Foundation chose to profile him as part of Protect America Month, which showcases why we must commit to protecting the United States in an increasingly dangerous world.