News: Q-West transportation
SGT RACHEL BRUNE
101ST SUSTAINMENT BDE
24 JANUARY 2006
Q-WEST BASE COMPLEX, Iraq " Soldiers, start your engines!
One by one, the huge tractor trailers and tankers rumble to life, filling this muddy corner of Q-West with the sound of diesel.
It is mid-afternoon on a cloudy January day, and the 454th Transportation Company is about to get back on the road.
One large trailer, loaded with containers, idles as Spc. Keith Hawkins, a truck driver from Columbus, Ohio, tightens a load strap. Sitting on the hood of the truck cab, Sgt. Justin Jacobs, a truck driver from South Amherst, Ohio, polishes clean an already-sparkling mirror.
On the other side of the motor pool, the gun truck crews pull on their gear, make a final check of their vehicles and make sure their weapons are ready.
At the center of activity, Staff Sgt. Daniel George, the mission commander from Lansing, Mich., seems to be in three places at once as he makes sure the vehicles and personnel of the Delaware, Ohio, Reserve unit are ready to get the mission rolling.
"Everything that happens on a convoy falls back on the convoy commander," said George. "Our unit seems to work pretty well getting things done."
Preparation for a mission begins three days prior to a mission, said George. The commander makes sure that the right amount and types of vehicles are available and that any Soldiers on the mission are correctly manifested.
The commander is also responsible for preparing a risk assessment, making sure mission personnel get enough sleep and rest, ensuring logistics such as ammunition and other gear are ready and conducting pre-combat checks and inspections.
As the sun sinks closer to the horizon line, the tractor trailers begin to move out to the Convoy Support Center, or CSC.
A small amount of confusion arises. The medic scheduled to ride with the CLP has not arrived. George tasks a gun truck to wait to see if he or she arrives at the motor pool.
Soon the word comes that the medic reported to the CSC, and the gun truck also heads for the CSC. At the Center, troops listen to a brief on recent activity in the areas they will travel in.
George then takes the floor to give a safety brief. When he is done, the gun truck crews go over drills, then join their fellow troops in helping themselves to snacks and drinks for the road ahead.
Before leaving, George makes sure to delegate all the tasks that need to be completed at the mission destination. One Soldier is put in charge of the fuel trucks, while another is tasked to accompany the third country national, or TCN, drivers to the TCN yard.
"Once we hit the gate, we split up our separate ways," said George. "Nobody needs their hand held."
The road is long, winding and extremely cold. In the rear gun truck, assistant driver Sgt. Steven Seward, truck driver from Alma, Mich., sweats with the heat turned all the way up as gunner Spc. Tyson Todd, from Vermilion, Ohio, fights frigid winds and extremely cold temperatures from his seat in the turret.
In the driver's seat, Sgt. Corey Malone, from Berlin Heights, Ohio, keeps his eyes on the road.
This is George's fourth time acting as CLP commander. He has not yet had to face any serious incidents, but feels confident his troops would revert to their training to successfully handle any situation.
George relies on his Soldiers to know their jobs, freeing him up to handle any mission changes. On this night, for example, five more TCN trucks are added to the mission.
"[My Soldiers] do all the work," said George. "You don't see me doing a lot of hair pulling."
On this night, the mission takes the 454th to Forward Operation Base Warrior. The fuel trucks download their cargo, and the trailers get new loads.
The gun truck crews head for the dining facility to get hot meals and bring them back for the tractor trailer and tanker drivers. All drivers conduct another check of their vehicles, including fluids and hoses.
When George returns from receiving another intelligence brief, he conducts another safety brief, cautioning the drivers about staying awake on the trip home.
"They know what their jobs [are]," said George. "It makes my job a lot easier."
The temperature drops as the trucks get back on the road and dawn draws nearer. A light rain begins to fall on the gunners up in their turrets.
Once again, the CLP completes the mission with little incident, although the lead gunner fires a flare once to alert a local national driver venturing too close to the CLP.
The job isn't over until the paperwork is complete. George heads back to finish the administrative tasks associated with the mission, including the after-action review and the vehicle dispatches.
On this night, the mission makes it back before the sun rises over the other side of Q-West. As George returns, another mission commander readies his troops and trucks, and the 454th gets ready to get back on the road.