RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Real war is no laughing matter. Nor is it a form of entertainment with the exception of the truly sadistic people who find it enjoyable.

With that in mind, it still was interesting to see one of the new heavily armored, high-tech vehicles made by Force Protection serve as a model for a robot “Decepticon” in the smash hit movie “Transformers.”

Bonecrusher is based on the Buffalo, a huge machine built by Force Protection for mine clearing and other dangerous duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Force Protection, which is based just outside Charleston, S.C., announced Thursday that it would build its new Cheetah vehicles at a plant in Person County. The news is not only good for the county, nearby Roxboro and the state but also for U.S. and allied troops who use Force Protection vehicles in a wide variety of roles in the war on terror.

The movie recreates the Buffalo in exquisite detail, including the long robotic arm with a huge claw that can pick up and help dispose of explosive devices (mines, improvised explosive devices or IEDs) that have killed so many Americans, allied troops, and civilians.

There’s even a toy robot based on the Buffalo.

In Transformers, Bonecrusher changes from the Buffalo into a fully autonomic robot as it clashes with the good guy robots and the U.S. military.

In real life, the Buffalo is a behemoth of a truck that includes a specially designed frame to deflect the force of a blast away from its body and the troops inside. A Humvee pales in comparison.

CBS and ABC have praised the Buffalo and smaller Cougar vehicles in news coverage. But most importantly of all the praise has come from troops and Marines in the field.

“I want to send a letter of thanks to all the personnel who work day after day building the Buffalos and Cougars which have saved my life and my Marine’s lives on many separate occasions out here in Iraq,” wrote Gabriel Wilson, a Marine, in a note posted at the Force Protection Web site.

“I know you all go into work with the same reason Marines go to work and
that is to make money,” he added. “But make no mistake about it, ‘What you do at any level for Force Protection is making a difference in our lives!’ Do not
ever question that.”

So if you go to see Transformers, keep an eye out for Bonecrusher the Buffalo. He’s impossible to miss. And when you watch him in action, take a moment to pause and remember our troops who are fighting a real war that’s far, far from home.

To them, Buffalos are not toys but life savers.