News: Taskmaster innovation increases convoy safety
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Members of the Service and Recovery section, Company B, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Taskmasters, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, TF Bastogne, installed the first-ever rocket propelled grenade netting on their up-armored M984 wrecker. This is the first and only wrecker in Afghanistan to have RPG nets as protection.
The S&R section is responsible for the wrecker elements as they support their sister company, Company A, 426th BSB, TF Taskmasters, 1st BCT, 101th Airborne Div., TF Bastogne, with resupply missions.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jason Lawson, of Maysville, Ky., the S&R non-commissioned officer in charge said, “Our job is to push, pull, or drag any vehicle that is damaged or inoperable to its next location. Without us, some of the supplies would not make it to outlying forward operation bases and soldiers.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Disney, of Reno, Nev., a member of the S&R section, said their job is more than merely resupply missions.
“If a vehicle is battle damaged, it is also our job to retrieve the vehicle before it falls into enemy hands. Sometimes that means being on call at all hours of the night in order to let the units of TF Bastogne continue their missions uninterrupted.”
The RPG netting would help the Taskmasters meet mission objectives and protect them from threats.
“When we first arrived in theater, we were the only vehicle going on missions that did not have protection from RPGs,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Marcus Woolcott, of Elgin, Ill. “Once we were engaged with six RPGs on a mission from FOB Bostick, we devised a plan to counter the threat. All the [up-armored vehicles] in our formation had nets, so we decided there was no reason we couldn’t put the same nets on the wrecker.”
The RPG nets are designed to absorb the impact and shock from incoming rounds, and help minimize personnel injuries and equipment damage. Blueprints for the RPG net system were only available for certain types of up-armored vehicles — until now.
With an “outside the wire” mission looming in the future, the S&R team constructed and modified parts from an up-armored vehicle’s RPG net system to make the components fit on a wrecker.
“First sergeant wanted us to think of how to use the RPG nets on a wrecker because we were getting a fifth wrecker [in the company],” said Lawson.
They brainstormed the idea, and within 24 hours fabricated the mounts, modified the frames to fit the measurements of the wrecker and installed all of the nets.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Alexander, of Flint, Mich., the shop office NCOIC, said there were restrictions with assembly.
“We had to make sure brackets were in place on the vehicle, because the RPG nets cannot be a permanent fixture on the vehicle and must be able to be removed in 24 hours or less,” said Alexander.
The soldiers of the S&R team are no strangers to innovation. In the last year, they have become known for improving their convoy trucks by creating the Bastogne Bumper, a metal bumper that helps protect vehicles when pushing host-nation trucks or damaged coalition trucks out of kill zones when on combat logistics patrols.
“Our goal as a section is to ensure that soldiers on the road are as safe as possible. If I can a make a small difference by increasing safety, then I have fulfilled my obligation as a NCO,” said Disney.
The S&R team completed the RPG netting project for their wrecker mid-April and said they are extremely proud of their contribution to the fight in Afghanistan.
“We originally sent our idea to use nets to Army Material Command,” said Woolcott. “They showed us a prototype, but we could not use their design because the netting was too bulky to terrain the mountains in Afghanistan, so we improvised a smaller version of the netting system that would allow us movement through our resupply routes.”
Throughout the design process, the S&R section has had support from their leadership, allowing the Soldiers to show their potential to think outside the box.
“I am extremely proud of these soldiers and their accomplishments, said 1st Sgt. Troy Baylis, the most senior NCO of Company B. “When they showed me the design, I was not surprised because I know how competent these men are at their trade. They never cease to amaze me.”
Other units have requested blueprints of the design for their use in their organizations.