CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - For soldiers at an entry control point at Camp Marmal, it is very important to get Afghan drivers escorted onto the base as soon as possible.
Not only do the Afghans transport vital military cargo from location to location, but they must meet mission delivery dates as well.
If a driver is not escorted on to the base within 72 hours of their arrival, the U.S. government must pay them an additional $140 in demurrage costs.
Imagine how much money is wasted if hundreds of drivers cannot get their cargo to the proper destination.
If the cargo doesn’t get on base, everyone from the driver to the soldiers suffer, so for the Louisiana reservists there is no time to waste.
The 540th Movement Control Detachment processes paperwork for Afghan drivers at Camp Marmal.
“Our unit is not only responsible for making sure the drivers link up with the carrier, but we also have to make sure they get a memo to get paid,” said Sgt. Jamion J. Anderson, a national Afghan trucking coordinator with the 540th MCT.
“We have usually dealt with over 100 cases a month where drivers are missing paperwork and can’t get paid.”
The soldiers must act as the middleman, making sure both the driver and carriers communicate to ensure the readiness of future convoy operations.
“Even a mistake in paper work can delay a truck getting on base, which can affect everyone on base from the Post Exchange to the dining facilities,” Anderson said. “We don’t want any mistakes on our end causing a missed meal.”
Not only do soldiers on the base rely on the cargo that is on the back of the truck, but the Afghan drivers depend on the cargo being delivered in order to get paid.
Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Hayner, an entry control point non-commissioned officer with the 540th MCT, said it’s funny how communication isn’t the problem between the soldiers and Afghans, but it’s tracking down the carrier who has to pick up the load that’s the hard part.
“Our interpreters taught us phrases that help us do our job, but hunting down the carriers is the hardest part because most of the time we’ll have phone numbers that don’t work,” Hayner said. “Even if we’re trying to provide the best customer service to the drivers, they know the universal sign language for ‘pay me.’”
The soldiers understand the hardships drivers may have to endure, which is why the government compensates them. Hayner said drivers have shared stories of paying off Taliban fighters at make-shift check points in order to get to the base.
Once a driver arrives, they have to spend additional money on food while they wait for an escort, which can sometimes take more than three days.
“Doing this job has given me a new perspective on the war because I’m starting to see that most of these drivers aren’t combatants,” Hayner said. “We try to make the drivers feel comfortable enough to come back and do more convoys for us, which is a part of the counter insurgency doctrine.”
As surrounding forward operating bases start to shut down due to U.S. forces pulling out, there are still soldiers out in the field who depend on convoys to get valuable supplies.
“Our mission is to help sustain the war fighter and cargo can’t make it from camp to camp if we don’t do our jobs,” Anderson said. “Anything we can do to make sure that the drivers don’t lose money and the government doesn’t spend more money, we’re going to do.”