News: Heartland to west coast, soldiers convoy 1,800 miles
Story by Sgt. Peter Ross
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif.– Braving the challenges of the road and pushing through more than 1,800 grueling miles of break downs, hot weather, bumpy roads, bathroom stops and hotel rooms, more than 60 soldiers of the 955th Engineer Company made unit history by convoying here from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After traveling the longest distance the unit has ever convoyed, they finally made it to the west coast to begin three weeks training at Combat Support Training Exercise 91.
The 27-vehicle convoy consisted of dump trucks, wreckers, and other utility vehicles, consuming 1,000 gallons of fuel daily, still proving to be cost effective for the unit and the Army Reserve. They were able to save more than $600,000 they would’ve spent on commercial airfare as well as shipping costs for their vehicles and other equipment.
They faced the daunting task of driving here, on a trip that took four days and three nights, staying in hotels and facing a list of equipment problems along the way.
“The hotels were fine and getting to rest at night was outstanding,” said Sgt. Bryan Knight, a native of Springfield, Mo., and a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 955th. “Every time we stopped we had to fix something.”
Some of these soldiers said the trip might be the longest distance convoyed during training but with the heat and noise of the engines they drudge on.
“It was really hot, some of the vehicles had no air conditioning” added Knight.
Pride and excitement can be heard in their voices when they talk about the trip and what they had accomplished, managing to span half the continent with no accidents.
“It’s amazing knowing that you are able to set records and if it’s a record then that shows that the 955th is doing great things,” said Sgt. Besherick Barr, a native of Florida City, Fla., and a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 955th. “The drive was pretty tiring, but it was good training.”
The trip is testament to what soldiers can accomplish when given a challenge. This show of dedication will let other soldiers see that anything is possible.
“I felt good, it was exhausting at times, but it felt good, we had real world scenarios like blown tires, other situations that we had to fix on the side of the road,” said Spc. Kenneth Lee Goethe Jr., a native of Boston, Mass., and a diesel mechanic with the 955th. “It was good training.”
Hard work, dedication and excellent leadership were the keys to this successful mission. Inexperienced drivers were paired with experienced drivers to get proper training. Cross training was highly encouraged for the younger soldiers.
“Being the only female on the convoy, I had to learn how to hold my [bladder.] We were told to drink a lot of water, but I had to limit my intake. As soon as we stopped I would run to the bathroom,” said Spc. Jessica Lynette Paul, a native of Lebanon, Mo., and a diesel mechanic with the 955th. “Dedication played a big part on the convoy. Everyone pitched in and helped fix any issues we had.”
The realistic scenarios faced on the convoy would be used as training similar to the long convoys soldiers travel in the Middle East. This training helped these soldiers prepare for deployment.
“We had to get oversized equipment permits. All this had to be coordinated in advance, also fuel points along the way had to be planned, with 27 vehicles you just can’t pull into any standard gas station, it had to be a fairly large truck stop,” said Capt. Scott Payton, executive officer of the 955th and a native of Branson, Mo. “We used about 1,000 gallons of fuel a day, we had to arrange for housing, so the soldiers had a place to stay. We stayed in a Motel 6, a Comfort Inn, and Comfort Suites. The money saved would be used for additional training.”
CSTX 91 is a sustainment-focused training exercise developed for units in Train/Ready year-three of the five-year Army Forces Generation model.
With many of the units participating in CSTX 91 becoming available for deployment next year, the remote training environment Fort Hunter Liggett provides offers rugged terrain, realistic training opportunities and living conditions soldiers may face while deployed.